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J.P. v. A.D.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 20, 2019



          Kathy Fontenot-Meyers Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: A.D.

          Christopher M. Ludeau Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: J.P.

          Court composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Van H. Kyzar, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.


         In this child custody dispute, the mother appeals the trial court's judgment which designated both parents as "joint domiciliary custodial parents." She also appeals the trial court's unrecorded, in-chambers interview of one of her witnesses, and its ruling that returned her kindergarten-age daughter to a prior school. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and render.


         A.D. and J.P. have two minor daughters, B.P., six-years of age, and C.P., three-years of age.[1] Although A.D. and J.P. were not married, they and their two children resided near Bayou Chicot in a home A.D. owned. All of them lived together for approximately five years until the father moved out of the home on or about October 5, 2017, as a result of a break-up between mom and dad.

         Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, B.P. attended kindergarten at Bayou Chicot Elementary. Prior to the break-up, as she traveled to Oakdale Elementary, where she was employed as a Pre-K teacher, A. D. would bring her two children to the home of Angie, J. P.'s mother. Angie, a school secretary at Bayou Chicot Elementary, would take C.P. to daycare and would bring B.P. to the elementary school. After school, Angie would pick up her two grandchildren and bring them to her home. A. D. would then come and get her children when she returned from Oakdale Elementary, and they would go to their Bayou Chicot home.

         At or near Christmas 2017, after J. P. left the Bayou Chicot home, A. D. decided to transfer B.P. to Oakdale Elementary, where she was allowed to attend because A. D. was employed there. J. P. objected to B.P.'s transfer, and this litigation ensued.


         On January 9, 2018, J. P. filed suit against A.D., seeking shared custody of B.P. and C.P. A.D. answered J.P.'s lawsuit and reconvened, seeking sole custody of the two children, subject to J.P.'s supervised visitation, child support, and the issuance of a TRO, enjoining J.P. from any physical and sexual abuse or harassment of A.D.

         The trial court heard this matter on two non-consecutive days, February 24, 2018[2] and March 20, 2018. Shortly after the conclusion of the March 20 hearing, the trial court assigned written reasons and issued judgment. In that judgment, the trial court: (1) ordered B.P. removed from Oakdale Elementary and re-enrolled at Bayou Chicot Elementary by April 9, 2018; (2) provided A.D. and J.P. with shared custody of B.P. and C.P.; (3) designated A.D. and J.P. as "joint domiciliary custodial parents"; (4) ordered custody and visitation with the minor children on a "7x7" basis with the non-visiting parent having additional visitation every Wednesday evening for two hours "in accordance with the attached Custody Implementation Plan";[3] (5) provided that visitational and custodial exchanges take place at the home of J.P.'s parents; (6) ordered J.P. to pay $500 monthly for child support retroactive to January 15, 2018; (7) required A.D. to continue carrying the minor children on all medical and health insurance premiums; (8) ordered J.P. to pay the child care/day care costs of the two children; (9) ordered J.P. responsible for 68% of all costs of school and extracurricular activities, as well as deductibles, copays, and non-covered medical expenses of the two children; (10) granted the parties unmonitored telephone or text messaging/conversations during the other parent's visitation; (11) ordered open communication as to the health, education and welfare of the children between the parents and prohibited the parents from making disparaging or derogatory comments about each other in the presence of the children or other persons; and (12) decreed that the jurisdiction of the custody and support matters would remain with the Evangeline Parish court and that the order would be regarded as a "considered decree." Although the trial court designated A.D. and J.P. as "joint domiciliary custodial parents," it did not allocate legal authority and responsibility for the children in the joint custody implementation order.[4]

         On appeal, A.D. asserts the trial court committed manifest error by: (1) designating the parents as co-domiciliary parents; (2) not having the witness testimony of Brother Jerry Adams ("Brother Adams") received in chambers recorded and made part of the record;[5] and (3) refusing to allow B.P. to attend school where she (A. D.) teaches.


         Domiciliary ...

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