Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 582, 929,
Honorable Charles G. Tutt, Judge.
BREEDLOVE LAW FIRM By: Pamela N. Breedlove Counsel for
D. SCOTT Counsel for Appellee.
BROWN, MOORE, and GARRETT, JJ.
Tiffany O'Neal ("the mother"), appeals from a
judgment denying a modification of custody for her daughter,
HLA. The mother has shared custody with HLA's father,
Defendant, Brandon Addis ("the father"), under a
shared joint custody implementation plan previously rendered
with a consent judgment. The mother seeks joint custody with
her named as domiciliary parent. For the following reasons,
we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
mother filed a petition to establish custody on February 26,
2015, for HLA (DOB: September 11, 2011). A consent judgment
was entered on April 15, 2015, providing for shared custody
of HLA rotating on a weekly basis. The mother filed two rules
for contempt for noncompliance with the joint custody plan
against the father and then filed a rule to modify custody on
September 15, 2016.
rule to modify custody, the mother alleged that there had
been material changes in circumstances warranting a
modification of custody. Specifically, the mother asserted
that: 1) the father refused to communicate with the mother
regarding school choice for HLA and refused to pay preschool
expenses; 2) the father leaves HLA with his mother much of
the time during his custody periods; and, 3) the father
refuses to share in the expenses for the minor child, and
child support needs to be set. The mother intended at that
time to move to Dallas, Texas, at the conclusion of her
education to become a nurse practitioner,  and she wanted to
be named as HLA's domiciliary parent.
court issued an interim order signed on November 30, 2016.
The trial court continued the shared custody arrangement and
appointed Shelley Booker to conduct a mental health
evaluation of the parties and HLA and to submit a written
report to the court. Ms. Booker completed her report in May
of 2017. The trial court held a hearing on November
hearing, the father testified that, when the original custody
plan was set, he lived with his parents in Bossier Parish.
The father moved to West Monroe for work in May/June 2017
without telling the mother. The father has a managerial
position at a restaurant in West Monroe and has a varying
work schedule that involves working nights and weekends, in
addition to days. He also works as a referee at high school
football games. HLA stays with her paternal grandparents in
Haughton during the father's custodial periods, and he
travels back and forth from West Monroe to Haughton to see
his daughter as his work and referee schedules allow.
father testified that he did not take HLA to Young Years
preschool every day when he had custody of her, and he did
not discuss with the mother what elementary school HLA should
attend, even after the mother requested his input. The father
testified that he was not always able to participate in
HLA's school events, but his mother would attend instead.
He also stated that he assisted HLA in a school project
regarding HLA's family tree wherein he included his
then-girlfriend, but not the mother. The father stated that
he and the mother communicate mostly through text messages.
The father gets benefits with his work, but at the time of
the hearing, he had not added HLA to his health insurance.
The father also testified that he wants to be able to claim
HLA on his taxes.
mother married her current husband ("the
stepfather") about four months prior to the hearing. The
stepfather testified at the hearing about his conviction in
federal court for possession of methamphetamine and the time he
served in federal prison for that offense. At the time of the
hearing, HLA's stepfather was on probation for the
possession offense. He also testified about prior arrests.
HLA's stepfather began dating the mother five months
after he was released from prison.
mother testified that she completed her schooling to become a
nurse practitioner in December 2016. At the time of the
hearing, she was working as a registered nurse because she
could not find work as a nurse practitioner in the Shreveport
job market. The mother testified that she did not tell the
father that she was going to have HLA tested for the magnet
school program prior to HLA being tested. She also testified
that she made the decision about where to place HLA for
preschool and elementary school after trying to get the
mother testified that she thinks she and the father need to
have better communication. The mother stated that there have
been times when the father is exercising his week of custody,
and, in order for the mother to find out why HLA was not at
preschool, she had to call the paternal grandmother to find
out what was going on. The mother stated that HLA is living a
split life in which there is little consistency between each
half. The mother sought joint custody with her named as
domiciliary parent and the father exercising custody on
alternating weekends. The mother testified that she was aware
that the father worked Saturdays and Sundays when proposing
that custody arrangement.
hearing, the judge stated that the child was leading separate
lives with each parent because the mother and the father were
not communicating with each other. The trial judge pointed
out that the mother and the father do not really know each
other. The judge opined that the father living in West Monroe
and the father's week of custody with HLA being mostly
exercised by the paternal grandmother could be a problem. The
trial judge stated that the parents agreed to joint custody
of HLA, and observed that the reasons for the mother wanting
to modify the custody arrangement had to do with HLA's
homework and HLA living with her paternal grandmother. The
best interest of the child factors still favor joint custody
in this case.
trial court maintained the week on-week off custody
arrangement and ordered the parents to attend parenting
classes and register and communicate through the Our Family
Wizard program instead of through text messages. The court
ordered the father to pay for half of HLA's health
insurance costs and school fees. The trial court ordered the
family to return to the court for a progress review hearing
six months later.
shared joint custody implementation plan was signed by the
court on December 8, 2017. The plan provided for week on/week
off shared custody with neither parent named as domiciliary
parent. The plan provided a holiday and summer custody
schedule with each parent providing HLA with unlimited
telephone access to the other parent. The parents were
ordered to exchange all medical information regarding the
child with each other. Other provisions were made for
accessing HLA's educational information, progress and
calendar and HLA's transportation. The mother has
appealed from the court's ruling, assigning the following
1. Whether the trial court erred in holding the mother to a
higher standard due to a prior consent judgment to shared
custody prior to the child starting school.
2. Whether the trial court erred in holding the mother to a
higher standard due to a prior consent judgment to shared
custody prior ...