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State, Department of Children And Family Support, Child Support Enforcement v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 20, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SUPPORT, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
DEBRANDON CORTEZ JONES Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Forty-Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana Trial Court No. 14-5528 Honorable Charles B. Adams, Judge.

          STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SUPPORT, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT By: Michael Tate Counsel for Appellant

          DEBRANDON CORTEZ JONES, LABRESHA SHAR'NA WILLIAMS In Proper Person

          Before WILLIAMS, GARRETT, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The plaintiff, the State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), Child Support Enforcement, appeals a judgment of the trial court refusing to reinstate an order for child support and medical support against the defendant, DeBrandon Cortez Jones, and ordering Jones and Labresha Williams, the mother of the children, to seek marriage counseling. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         On March 19, 2014, Jones signed a stipulation under La. R.S. 46:236.7, agreeing to pay the DCFS $364 per month, effective April 19, 2014, for two of his children, DeBrandon Jones, Jr., born March 9, 2011, and D'Jayden Jones, born March 30, 2012. It appears from the record that Williams is the mother of these children. Jones also agreed to include the children on his health and dental plan at his employment. On April 2, 2014, the trial court signed an order memorializing the stipulation.

         In April 2018, the DCFS filed an ex parte motion to suspend the medical support and child support obligation, asserting that Williams, the custodial parent of the children, filed a request that her case for child support and medical support be closed. The request for closure document executed by Williams recited, "DeBrandon Jones and I are back together and he takes care of his kids." A representative of the DCFS signed a certificate of suspension of child support enforcement, averring that the DCFS was not furnishing child support services to Williams and was not providing Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program ("FITAP") benefits or Medicaid benefits for the children. On April 6, 2018, the trial court signed an order granting the ex parte motion, suspending the judgment of April 2, 2014, effective March 20, 2018.

         In November 2018, the DCFS filed against Jones and Williams a rule and order to show cause why a medical support obligation in this case for DeBrandon Jr. and D'Jayden should not be modified to include a child support obligation. The rule indicated that the custodial parent had reapplied for child support services. It asked that a cash medical support award be issued until Jones could secure and maintain health care insurance at a reasonable cost.

         A report to a judicial hearing officer listed the issues at the hearing to be a modification of child support to add a third child, a reinstatement of child support, and a cash medical award. The report indicated that Jones and Williams had a third child, D'Kaisen Jones, born October 12, 2016. According to the report, Williams was receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP") benefits for herself and three children and had applied for reinstatement of child support services. An obligation worksheet, prepared and signed by a DCFS worker, listed all three children and specified that Jones was receiving workers' compensation benefits. The worksheet suggested that a monthly child support obligation of $206.82 be paid by Jones for all three children.[1]

         The trial court minutes show that a hearing on the rule was held on December 5, 2018. However, no transcript of the hearing was furnished with this record. It does not appear that a transcript exists. The initial page of the appellate record, prepared by the district court clerk of court's office, contains the following notation: "No Court Reporter in DSS court."

         According to the minutes, the parties were present at the hearing. Neither party was represented by counsel. It appears that only one witness, Kylee Barber, testified at the hearing. The state's brief indicates that this witness was the DCFS caseworker.[2] There is no indication what the witness said in her testimony.

         On January 14, 2019, the trial court signed a judgment denying the request for reinstatement of child support based upon its finding that the parties were legally married and had not filed for divorce. The court ordered both parties to seek counseling, from a pastor of their choice, concerning marriage and raising children. The trial court did not furnish written reasons for judgment. The judgment appeared to be a form judgment, possibly generated by the district attorney's office on behalf of the ...


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