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Bloxom v. Bloxom

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 14, 2019

REBECCA LEIGH BLOXOM Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LONNIE KEITH BLOXOM Defendant-Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 607550 Honorable Robert P. Waddell, Judge.

          LAW OFFICE OF BRYCE DENNY, LLC Counsel for Appellant Bryce J. Denny

          GATTI & MERCKLE LAW FIRM Counsel for Appellee Ryan E. Gatti Emily S. Merckle

          Before GARRETT, COX, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         Lonnie Keith Bloxom appeals from a trial court judgment awarding his former wife, Rebecca Leigh Bloxom, $925 per month in final periodic spousal support, pursuant to the provisions in our law pertaining to domestic abuse. We affirm the trial court judgment.

         FACTS

         Lonnie and Rebecca married in December 2015, and thereafter lived in DeSoto Parish. They separated on November 24, 2017, when Lonnie was arrested for domestic abuse battery after he slapped Rebecca and pulled her hair out. Rebecca moved to Caddo Parish, where she resided in a house owned by her mother.

         On March 21, 2018, Rebecca filed a petition for protection from abuse, pursuant to La. R.S. 46:2131 et seq. or La. R.S. 46:2151, in Caddo Parish. She alleged that on March 20, 2018, Lonnie attacked her, grabbed her throat, face and wrist, pulled her hair, hid her phone and wallet, refused to allow her to leave, threatened to kill her or "something worse," and attempted to rape her. She recounted that he was arrested on November 24, 2017, after he hit her in the face in the presence of her teenage daughter and pulled out wads of her hair. She also asserted a July 2015 incident in which she sustained a black eye, as well as bruises on her arms and legs. The court issued a temporary restraining order ("TRO"), which directed Lonnie to stay 100 yards from her residence and ordered him to show cause on April 4, 2018, why the TRO should not be made a protective order. Following a hearing on April 4, 2018, the trial court signed a protective order which was effective for six months.

         In the meantime, on March 29, 2018, Rebecca filed a petition for divorce, pursuant to La C.C. art. 103(4) or, alternatively, La. C.C. art. 103(5) or La. C.C. art. 102. She alleged that she and Lonnie separated on November 24, 2017, after his arrest for domestic abuse battery and that they had not reconciled. She further alleged that she was without fault in the causes giving rise to the divorce. She specifically sought reasonable spousal support under the domestic abuse provisions of La. R.S. 9:327 and La. C.C. art. 112(B) and (D). The trial court issued an ex parte order directing Lonnie to produce a variety of financial records, including all documentation of earnings from 2015 to 2018. Additionally, he was ordered to produce documents for 2015 to 2017, which included: W-2 and 1099 forms; state and federal tax returns, individually and for any business, firm or association from which he derived any pecuniary interest; bank statements, cancelled checks and deposit slips.[1]

         Trial was held on June 26, 2018. Both parties testified. As to the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, Rebecca testified consistently with the allegations of abuse in her petition for protection from abuse. As to financial matters, Rebecca introduced into evidence an affidavit asserting monthly expenses of $3, 195. She testified that she was 56 years old and had not worked for four years, which included the duration of her marriage to Lonnie. She obtained a college degree from LSU in science and general studies in 1987. Her last employment was for Adult Protective Services for the City of Roanoke, Virginia, and she earned $36, 000 a year. Her work experience was determining Medicaid and food stamp eligibility; she also had worked in personal lines insurance. She testified that she currently had no income but was seeking employment and recently had been on two job interviews. She was living in a house owned by her mother, who resided in an assisted-living facility. While Rebecca paid no rent or mortgage, she paid the utilities, which were in her name, and house-related expenses, such as property taxes and insurance. Her teenage daughter was also on her cell phone plan. She acknowledged that she had inherited $160, 000 from her father's estate. The date of the inheritance was unclear. However, some of it was expended during the marriage and, at the time of trial, about $80, 000 was left.

         During cross-examination, Rebecca testified that the facts alleged in the protective order were true. She denied that Lonnie told her during the March 2018 incident that he had hidden her phone and wallet because she was drunk and he didn't want her to get a DUI. She testified that he told her he hid them because he did not want her to call the police. She also stated that she had her car keys in her skirt pocket. Rebecca denied that she had moved back in and was living with Lonnie at the time of this incident.

         In his testimony, Lonnie admitted that, in June 2018, he pled guilty to a reduced charge of simple battery arising from the November 2017 incident which led to the parties' separation. He testified that he made about $35, 000 per year; his 2017 W-2 for a house remodeling company called Wood Shapers showed an income of $34, 893.75. He stated that he made $26 per hour and that his weekly hours varied; the week before the trial, he had worked only 26 hours. Lonnie testified that he also received about $300 per month in gas royalties from a family partnership/trust account. In 2017, the trust (which he shared with two siblings) produced additional income of about $120, 000 due to a land sale. A 2017 K-1 schedule showed he received $44, 665. He also earned revenue from raising and selling cows. He testified at trial that he currently owned 30 cows. In 2017, he sold 12 to 15 calves, for which he received about $600 apiece. However, he stated that there were expenses related to their maintenance; he estimated his average profit per cow was $200, but it varied. Lonnie testified that he made a total of about $82, 000 in 2017.

         At the conclusion of evidence, the trial court granted Rebecca a divorce from Lonnie based upon the domestic abuse. The community was terminated retroactively to the date of filing of the divorce petition. The court issued a permanent injunction against Lonnie on behalf of Rebecca, pursuant to La. R.S. 9:366 and La. R.S. 46:2136.2.

         The trial court ordered Lonnie to pay Rebecca monthly spousal support of $925, pursuant to La. R.S. 9:327 and La C.C. art. 112(B) and (D).[2] The trial court reached that sum as follows:

The issue of spousal support is a little more complicated as far as trying to find out whether - I think using $80, 000 for the year 2017 would be inappropriate, because I do think he had extra money. But I also think using $33, 000 a year is probably under that. I think, sir, your cows and your working in that probably produce a little more. What I really wanted to do is see the income tax return to see what was reported there, but I don't have that. I only have the two returns - the W2 from Wood Shapers and the [Schedule K-1 from the family partnership/trust], but not your return.
But bottom line is I'm going to set . . . spousal support . . . at $1, 000 per month. That's about a third of what I think your income is. I think her list of wanting $3, 000 a month is excessive, and there [were] expenses there that you say that are shared somewhat with your mother. So I didn't give anything for shelter. If she has to move out, that amount would go up. But using her money for food and utilities and her paying part of that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of - let's see. Let me do that one more time. . . .
Hold on. I want to check that figure before I say it. I may have made a mistake on my adding. I did. I'm going to set [spousal support] at $925 a month. That's including food and the utilities.
Judgment was signed July 19, 2018.

         Lonnie filed a motion for a suspensive appeal, which the trial court granted.[3] His contentions on appeal are that the trial court erred in (1) not specifying the factual basis for its support award, and (2) granting Rebecca permanent, lifetime spousal support of $925 per month. Neither has merit.

         LAW

         Statutes and Articles

         At the time the petition was filed, La. C.C. art. 103 provided, in relevant part:

Except in the case of a covenant marriage, a divorce shall be granted on the petition of a ...

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