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Duncan v. Duncan

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 19, 2018

LAURA MEINE DUNCAN
v.
SCOTT FURM MOFFORD DUNCAN

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 736-260, DIVISION "A" HONORABLE RAYMOND S. STEIB, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, LAURA MEINE DUNCAN D. Douglas Howard, Jr. Meagan L. Miller

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, SCOTT FURM MOFFORD DUNCAN Marc D. Winsberg Robin Penzato Arnold Jonathan D. Gamble

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg.

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE.

         Appellant, Dr. Scott Furm Mofford Duncan, appeals the trial court's March 19, 2018 amended judgment which granted appellee's, Laura Meine Duncan's, exceptions of no cause of action and res judicata, and dismissed appellant's Motion to Reduce Child Support and First Supplemental and Amended Motion to Reduce Child Support with prejudice. For the reasons stated herein, that portion of the March 19, 2018 amended judgment granting Ms. Duncan's exception of res judicata and dismissing Dr. Duncan's Motion to Reduce Child Support and his First Supplemental and Amended Motion to Reduce Child Support is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Procedural History and Facts

         The parties were married on June 11, 1994. Three children were born of the marriage: MacKenzie Duncan, born October 14, 1998; Parker Duncan, born July 18, 2000; and Connor Duncan, born June 22, 2003. On March 10, 2014, Ms. Duncan file a petition for divorce and incidental matters, including a request for child support.

         On June 6, 2014, the parties entered into a consent judgment concerning custody and child support. The parties agreed to joint custody of the three minor children, with Ms. Duncan designated as the domiciliary parent and reasonable visitation with Dr. Duncan. The consent judgment further provided that:

Scott Furm Mofford Duncan shall pay child support in the amount of $13, 000.00 per month, effective March 10, 2014, to be paid in $6, 500.00 installments on the 15th and 30th of each month beginning June 15, 2014. The parties agree to opt out of child support being paid through DCFS.
The Court finds in accordance with Stogner v. Stogner, 739 So.2d 762 (La. 1990), that this consent judgment is a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines, and further constitutes a conventional obligation that promotes the children's continued support and upbringing pursuant to the mandate of the Louisiana Supreme Court in Dubroc v. Dubroc, 388 So.2d 377 (La. 1980). The Court has considered the guidelines to review the adequacy of the agreed upon amount, and further finds that said support agreement is in the best interest of the minor children.

         On June 22, 2017, Dr. Duncan filed a Motion to Reduce Child Support contending that "the parties' oldest daughter, MacKenzie Duncan, born on October 14, 2000 [sic]," reached the age of majority and graduated from high school. He asserted that this was a material change in circumstance warranting a reduction in his child support obligation. In response, Ms. Duncan filed exceptions of res judicata, no cause of action, vagueness, and ambiguity. In her exception of res judicata, Ms. Duncan alleged that the June 6, 2014 consent judgment, which set an in globo child support amount, could not be reduced because the consent judgment previously adjudicated the effect of their oldest child reaching the age of majority and provided that the in globo amount of child support would remain in effect until the youngest child attained the age of majority. Ms. Duncan's exception of no cause of action alleged that a child reaching the age of majority does not by itself constitute a material change in circumstance warranting a reduction of an in globo child support award. Dr. Duncan filed an opposition to Ms. Duncan's exceptions. On September 12, 2017, the Domestic Commissioner overruled Ms. Duncan's exception of res judicata and sustained Ms. Duncan's exception of no cause of action, giving Dr. Duncan fifteen days to amend his Motion to Reduce Child Support. On September 13, 2017, Dr. Duncan filed a First Supplemental and Amended Motion to Reduce Child Support.

         On September 14, 2017, Ms. Duncan filed an objection to the Domestic Commissioner's judgment overruling her exception of res judicata. On September 18, 2017, Dr. Duncan filed an objection to the Domestic Commissioner's judgment sustaining Ms. Duncan's exception of no cause of action as to his original Motion to Reduce Child Support.

         On December 5, 2017, the trial court heard both parties' objections. The parties agreed that they were only addressing Dr. Duncan's original Motion to Reduce Child Support, not his First Supplemental and Amending Motion to Reduce Child Support. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court sustained ...


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