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Bell v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 31, 2019

ANDREA CEOLA BELL
v.
TERRAL CARL JACKSON, JR.

          Appealed from the Family Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number 206826 Honorable Charlene Charlet Day, Judge Presiding

          Scott P. Gaspard Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Andrea Ceola Bell.

          Veronica" Vicky" Jones Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Terral Carl Jackson, Jr.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.

          WHIPPLE, C.J.

         Andrea Ceola Bell appeals a judgment of the family court that imputed income to Terral Carl Jackson, Jr. and deviated from the child support guidelines. For the following reasons, we vacate the judgment and remand this case for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The parties in this matter, Andrea Ceola Bell and Terral Carl Jackson, Jr., were engaged in a brief relationship, which produced one child, born on November 6, 2015. On October 27, 2016, Ms. Bell filed a Petition to Establish Paternity and Child Support in the Family Court for East Baton Rouge Parish, requesting that Terral Carl Jackson, Jr. be recognized by judicial decree as the natural and biological father of the minor child and that he be ordered to pay child support for the care and maintenance of the minor child as well as his percentage share of maintaining a policy of health, dental, and vision insurance for the minor child, and his percentage share of payments of any non-insured medical expenses and any extraordinary expenses for the minor child.[1]

         In discovery requests filed into the record of this proceeding, Mr. Jackson alleged he received an average income of $3, 000.00 per month as a result of his co-ownership in and ventures he promoted with the Allure Nightclub and Ultralounge ("Allure"), but was unemployed due to the closure of Allure. In his testimony at trial, Mr. Jackson indicated that he intended to find more stable employment, but he was continuing to do work as a promoter of events in addition to some work in marketing and as a disc jockey. Notwithstanding his purported $3, 000.00 average income, Mr. Jackson alleged monthly expenses totaling $8, 757.65.[2] Additionally, Mr. Jackson admitted that he has never filed federal or state income tax returns.

         Trial in this matter was held on January 22 and 29, 2018, during which both Ms. Bell and Mr. Jackson testified. (Rl. 3, 69; R2. 192). Evidence was introduced and included Mr. Jackson's bank statements, copies of checks and withdrawal receipts for one of Mr. Jackson's accounts, a spreadsheet Mr. Jackson and his wife created to account for some of the withdrawal receipts, an in globo exhibit containing invoices, estimates, proposals, and a portion of a lease agreement, and one vendor invoice history.

         On February 15, 2018, the trial court issued a partial ruling in open court and imputed income of $8, 471.00 to Mr. Jackson. Following the trial court's ruling and declaration of Mr. Jackson's imputed income, counsel for Mr. Jackson orally requested a deviation from the child support guidelines based on Mr. Jackson's purported obligation for a minor daughter conceived from a different relationship and allegedly living with him in his home. In open court on February 27, 2018, the trial court granted Mr. Jackson a deviation from the child support guidelines in the amount of $400.00. The trial court found Ms. Bell to have a gross monthly income of $5, 649.00 for the period of November 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 and a gross monthly income of $7, 996.00 from January 1, 2017 to present.[3] Applying the $8, 471.00 imputed income of Mr. Jackson with the deviation of $400.00 to all applicable periods, the trial court ordered Mr. Jackson to pay $845.00 in monthly child support for the period of November 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016; $798.00 per month for the period of January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017; and $799.00 per month beginning on January 1, 2018.[4]

         DISCUSSION

         The guidelines for the determination of child support obligations are set forth in LSA-R.S. 9:315, et seq, and rely on the combined adjusted monthly gross income of the parents. St. Philip v. Montalbano, 2016-0254 (La.App. 1st Cir. 10/31/16), 206 So.3d 909, 912, writ denied, 2016-2110 (La. 1/13/17), 215 So.3d 255. A trial court's determination of the monthly gross income of a parent and the parents' credibility is subject to a manifest error standard of review. State v. Alexander, 2014-615 (La.App. 3rd Cir. 11/5/14), 150 So.3d 679, 680; also see Lambert v. Lambert, 2006-2399 (La.App. 1st Cir. 3/23/07), 960 So.2d 921, 924- 27. Generally, the trial court's order of child support is entitled to great weight and will not be disturbed on appeal absent clear abuse of discretion. Verges v. Verges, 2001-0208 (La.App. 1st Cir. 3/28/02), 815 So.2d 356, 363, writ denied, 2002- 1528 (La. 9/20/02), 825 So.2d 1179.

         Imputed Income versus Actual Income ...


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