FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
MARTIN, NO. 83096 HONORABLE LEWIS H. PITMAN, JR., DISTRICT
Bradford H. Felder Veazey, Felder & Renegar, L.L.C.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Dustin Allen Dawes
Shane McCormick McCormick Law Firm COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE:
Katherine Leigh Henson Dawes
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and D. Kent
R. COOKS JUDGE
father in this matter, Dustin Allen Dawes, appeals the trial
court's decree of custody and visitation as to his two
minor children, Sutton Elizabeth Dawes, born on June 2, 2014,
and Deacon Everett Dawes, born on August 5, 2015. The
appellee in this matter is the mother, Katherine Henson
facts establish the parties entered into a temporary custody
order by consent on September 25, 2015, when Sutton was
seventeen months old and Deacon was one month old. The
consent judgment specifically reserved each parties'
right to seek a judicial modification.
sought additional visitation by rule filed on April 22, 2016.
On May 10, 2016, a hearing officer recommended a custodial
schedule by which Dustin would have visitation periods with
Sutton every other weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until
Sunday at 6:00 p.m., and every Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. until
the following morning (Thursday) at 8:00 a.m. As to Deacon,
Dustin was to have visitation every other weekend from
Saturday at 9:00 a.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. and
alternating Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. until the following
morning (Thursday) at 8:00 a.m. Beginning on December 16,
2016, the visitation periods for Deacon would be the same as
that for the older child, Sutton.
parties objected to the hearing officer's recommendations
and the matter was set for a trial court hearing on June 21,
2016. As noted by Dustin, the transcript revealed no evidence
was presented that would suggest the custodial periods
granted to Dustin should be limited. The trial court
specifically noted that "it is very obvious to the Court
that both of these parents are very good parents, very caring
parents and love their children very much."
the brief hearing, the trial court awarded joint custody,
naming Katherine as domiciliary parent. Visitation was
outlined allowing Dustin visitation with Sutton every other
weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.,
and every other Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. until the following
morning (Thursday) at 8:00 a.m. As to Deacon, Dustin was to
have visitation every other Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until
6:00 p.m. and the following Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00
p.m. Dustin was also allowed visitation with Deacon every
other Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. until the following morning
(Thursday) at 8:00 a.m. the following morning (Thursday) at
8:00 a.m. Beginning on December 1, 2016, the visitation
periods for Deacon would be the same as that for the older
child, Sutton. Judgment was signed on February 6, 2017. The
trial court also entered a Joint Custody Implementation Plan
dated March 7, 2017, outlining holiday custodial periods and
other incidental matters.
filed a motion for new trial on May 14, 2017, arguing the
amount of visitation granted to him was legally insufficient.
Dustin noted, despite the trial court finding him to be a
very good, caring parent, who loved his children very much,
he was awarded custodial periods totaling just sixty-two days
per year. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion
for new trial.
appeal followed, wherein Dustin asserted the trial court
erred in not ordering shared custody as the evidence
established it was in the best interests of the children.
Alternatively, Dustin argued the sixty-two days per year of
visitation he was granted does not assure frequent and
continuing contact with both parents as set forth in La.R.S.
well settled in the statutory law and jurisprudence that the
best interest of the child is the paramount consideration in
determining child custody. La.Civ.Code art. 131; Evans v.
Lungrin, 97-541, 97-577 (La. 2/6/98), 708 So.2d 731;