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Hudson v. Strother

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 2, 2018

RONDA MAXWELL HUDSON
v.
CLINT TUCKER STROTHER

          APPEAL FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 242, 908 HONORABLE GEORGE C. METOYER, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE

          Susan Ford Fiser COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Clint Tucker Strother

          Darrell Keith Hickman COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Ronda Maxwell Hudson

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          VAN H. KYZAR, JUDGE.

         Appellant, Clint Tucker Strother, appeals the judgment of the trial court denying his rule for a change of custody of the parties' minor daughter. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Strother and Appellee, Ronda Maxwell Hudson, are the unmarried parents of Kristen Marie Strother, born on June 16, 2010. By judgment rendered on November 10, 2011, based upon the stipulations of the parties, and signed on January 10, 2012, the parties agreed to share joint custody of Kristen, with Ms. Hudson being designated as the primary custodial parent and with Mr. Strother having reasonable visitation rights. The parties entered into another Consent Judgment on June 30, 2014, wherein Mr. Strother was awarded every-other-weekend custodial visitation and alternating weekly summer custodial visitation.

         Subsequently, Mr. Strother filed a Rule for Change of Custody, Rule for Contempt and For Other Relief on June 2, 2017, based on numerous allegations, including that the child had excessive tardiness and unexcused absences from school, that Child Protection had telephoned him, and that the mother, Ronda Hudson, had been involved in physical violence with the man with whom she is living while the minor child was in the home. In this pleading, he also sought and obtained a Temporary Ex Parte Custody Order, whereby Ms. Hudson was given only supervised visitation at her mother's home until the matter could be heard.

         On July 24, 2017, a hearing was held; at the conclusion of which the trial court denied the Rule for Change of Custody, holding that "the Court finds that there is insufficient evidence to take the child away from the mother and place it with the father at this point." This appeal by Mr. Strother followed.

         On appeal, Mr. Strother alleges four assignments of error, as follows:

1. The trial court committed legal error by applying an incorrect legal standard to determine custody and visitation rights to the minor child, and thus a de novo review by this court is appropriate and necessary.
2. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in failing to recognize that the evidence presented established that sole or domiciliary custody for the father and supervised visitation for the mother would be in the best interest of the child and in failing to tailor a custody and visitation order in a manner that would minimize risk of harm to the minor child.
3. The trial court erred in failing to find that the violent acts against mother by her paramour in front of the child triggered the Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act.
4. The trial court erred in failing to recognize that the [Appellee's] failure to call her paramour to testify or to explain his failure to testify about matters material to the case and peculiarly within his knowledge created an adverse presumption that his testimony would be damaging and unfavorable to her case.

         OPINION

         Legal Standard Applied by the Trial Court for Change of Custody

         Mr. Strother first asserts that the trial court erred in applying the incorrect standard of law in denying his rule for a change in the custody arrangements of the parties' minor child. As such, he argues, this court should review the trial court's decision de novo. The standard of ...


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