APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF ST. JAMES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 35, 735, DIVISION
"C" HONORABLE KATHERINE TESS STROMBERG, JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, TRIEONNE WASHINGTON JONES
Cynthia A. De Luca Rebecca Gilson
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, SHAUN ADEL JONES Natashia
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J.
Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg
J. LILJEBERG, JUDGE
Shaun Adel Jones,  seeks review of the trial court's July
9, 2018 Judgment addressing custody and visitation issues.
Shaun does not contest the substance of the trial court's
custody rulings, but contends the trial court erred by
finding its ruling rendered from the bench following the
February 15, 2017 custody trial was an interim order, rather
than a considered decree subject to the
Bergeronstandard. Shaun also objects to the trial
court's appointment of a custody evaluator at a
subsequent status conference and contends that certain
portions of the July 9, 2018 Judgment fail to properly set
forth the custody and visitation terms addressed on the
record following the status conference.
explained more fully below, we affirm the trial court's
July 9, 2018 Judgment, but remand the matter to the trial
court to amend certain portions of the judgment as instructed
herein. The record indicates that Shaun stipulated to the
interim nature of the trial court's custody and
visitation rulings. Furthermore, we do not find that the
trial court abused its discretion by appointing a custody
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
parties, Shaun Adel Jones and Trieonne Washington Jones,
share custody of three minor children born during their
marriage. On March 21, 2013, Trieonne filed a petition for
divorce, which included a request for joint custody and for
designation as the domiciliary parent. On May 6, 2013, the
parties entered into a stipulation designating Trieonne as
the "primary custodial parent," but did not
stipulate to a visitation schedule.
2, 2014, Shaun filed a motion to modify custody and child
support alleging Trieonne improperly limited his visitation
with the children. Shaun argued that it was in the best
interest of the children to award him "joint/shared
custody" with either no domiciliary parent or both
parties designated as co-domiciliary parents. He also asked
that the parties exercise equal visitation and custodial time
with the children. The matter was set for hearing on July 7,
2014, and the minute entry from that hearing date indicates
"the parties stipulated to maintaining joint
custody." On August 25, 2014, the trial court issued a
written judgment providing as follows:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED the parties will
continue the present custody arrangement with mother,
Trieonne W. Jones, as domicile parent, and with father, Shaun
A. Jones having custody every other weekend from Friday to
Sunday and furthermore Mr. Jones shall have the right to
request additional weekday visitation by contacting Trieonne
trial court signed a judgment of divorce on August 28, 2014.
On October 8, 2014, Shaun filed a motion for contempt
alleging Trieonne failed to adhere to the new weekend
visitation schedule and refused to allow him weekday
visitation with the children. On November 5, 2014, the
parties entered into a consent judgment maintaining joint
custody. Trieonne remained as the domiciliary parent and
Shaun's visitation was extended to every other week from
Thursday through Monday. The parties also agreed to summer
and holiday visitation schedules and to enroll in Our Family
Wizard within 30 days.
April 28, 2016, Shaun filed a motion for contempt and to
modify custody. In his motion, Shaun again alleged it would
be in the best interest of the minor children for the parties
to have "joint/shared custody" with equal
visitation time and either no domiciliary parent or both
parties designated as co-domiciliary parents. On May 20,
2016, Trieonne filed an ex parte motion for temporary sole
custody. The trial court denied her request for temporary
sole custody and set the matter for hearing. Also on August
17, 2016, Trieonne filed a motion asking the trial court to
conduct a Watermeier hearing with the children to
allow the trial court to evaluate their concerns in
determining custody. On December 15, 2017, Trieonne moved to
voluntarily dismiss her ex parte motion for temporary sole
custody, which the trial court granted. A minute entry from a
January 23, 2017 hearing date states the trial court would
not hold a Watermeier hearing, but would briefly
speak to the minor children in chambers.
several continuances, the trial court set a trial date for
Shaun's motion to modify custody on February 15, 2017.
Shaun called six witnesses to testify, including himself, and
introduced numerous exhibits into evidence before resting his
case. Prior to presenting her case, Trieonne moved for
directed verdict arguing that Shaun failed to meet his burden
to obtain a modification of the consent custody order entered
into between the parties on November 5, 2014. Trieonne argued
that Shaun failed to prove it was in the best interest of the
children for the parties to share custody with a 50/50
visitation schedule and no domiciliary parent designation.
hearing oral argument on Trieonne's motion for a directed
verdict, the trial court apparently declined to grant a
directed verdict and instead chose to proceed directly to
granting Shaun's motion to modify custody as follows:
1) The trial court determined the parties would share 50/50
custody with a 2, 2, 3 visitation schedule. The trial court
indicated that it would allow the attorneys to explore
whether the parties could agree on how they would allocate
the visitation days.
2) With respect to the domiciliary parent, the trial court
stated as follow:
You are domiciliary parent, ma'am, however, that is only
to where they reside. All school decisions are going to be
made together. All health and welfare decisions will be made
together. In this case, the domicile is the address as to
where they reside, but you're going to share everything.
3) With respect to holidays, the trial court stated one party
would exercise visitation on Christmas Eve and the other
would have Christmas Day, with the schedule flipping every
other year. The trial court further stated the parties would
follow their regular schedule for the remaining holidays.
4) The trial court determined that Shaun would bring their
son for haircuts, and Trieonne would bring the girls to dance
rehearsals and recitals.
5) The trial court ordered that all contact and email lists
should include both parents' contact information,
including but not limited to doctors, girl scouts, and sports
6) With respect the children's activities, the trial
court determined that both parties must concur on Our Family
Wizard before signing the children up for additional
7) Finally, the trial court ordered the parties to send and
return all of the children's uniforms, clothes and
equipment when exchanging custody.
the trial court provided its ruling, Trieonne's counsel
noted that she only asked for a directed verdict and did not
forego the right to present her client's case:
MS. GAUFF: I asked for directed verdict. I didn't forego
my ability to put on a case, so I'm going to note - - so
please note our objection to the court's ruling without
permitting us to put on a case.
THE COURT: Do you want to put on your case?
MS. GAUFF: I'm just making a record - -
THE COURT: No, I'm saying, do you want to?
MS. GAUFF: I'm putting - - the Court has ruled so I'm
just making my objection and protecting the record.
this exchange with the trial court, Trieonne's counsel
moved to withdraw as counsel with respect to any further
custody issues. The trial court granted counsel's request
to withdraw and signed a written order to that effect on
March 14, 2017.
March 17, 2017, Trieonne's current counsel filed a motion
to enroll on behalf of Trieonne with respect to custody
issues, as well as the collection of past due child support.
On March 27, 2017, Trieonne filed a motion to reset the trial
regarding custody issues. In this motion, Trieonne alleged
that at some unspecified time after the February 15, 2017
custody trial, "the Court determined that
TRIEONNE WASHINGTON was not given the
opportunity to present her case in chief to the court. The
matter was then considered an open custody trial to be reset
by Ms. Jones for presentation of her case in chief."
Trieonne further averred that "the Court converted her
bench ruling to an interim judgment pending the completion of
the hearing." The record does not include any judgment,
transcripts or minute entries evidencing these alleged