Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hensgens v. Hensgens

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 18, 2019

KARL JUDE HENSGENS
v.
ALANNA WINGATE HENSGENS

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA, NO. 2017-10204-M HONORABLE CHARLES G. FITZGERALD, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          Jack Derrick Miller (A Professional Law Corporation) COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Karl Jude Hensgens

          Helen Popich Harris Helen Popich Harris (APLC) COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Alanna Wingate Hensgens

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Shannon J. Gremillion, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          JOHN E. CONERY JUDGE.

         Following the parties' divorce, Defendant sought interim spousal support as well as child support for the couple's three minor children. Plaintiff cited a downturn in his farming operation in reporting a period of negative income for calculation of support. The trial court rejected that evidence after finding that Plaintiff's accounting methodology was inconsistent with La.R.S. 9:315(C)(3)(c). The trial court instead relied upon the Defendant's expert in accounting to shape orders of both child and interim spousal support. Plaintiff appeals both awards.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The parties, Karl and Alanna Hensgens, were married in 2006. The couple have three daughters. Karl filed a petition for divorce on March 7, 2017, which was granted by a July 18, 2018 judgment of divorce. The judgment terminated the community retroactive to the filing of the petition.

         The trial court thereafter considered ancillary matters, [1] including Alanna's request for child support and interim spousal support. During a two-day hearing, the parties presented expert testimony regarding Karl's income as a rice and crawfish farmer in support of their positions regarding issues of support. Karl relied on calculations reflecting a negative income balance over a period of several years due to difficulties experienced in that industry, including the 2016 flood event. He explained that he had no more liquid assets and referenced a lawsuit pending against the couple due to failure to repay farming loans.

         Alanna on the other hand presented expert testimony drawn, in part, from the couple's income tax returns and which reported funds available for support. As discussed in more detail below, the parties differed on issues related to accounting methodology as well as whether sources of income were recurring and whether certain expenses were business related for purposes of calculating support.

         The trial court ultimately rejected Karl's assertion that he had negative income as estimated by his expert through use of an accounting method that relied on income/expenses related to the crop year. Citing La.R.S. 9:315(C)(3)(c), the trial court instead favored Alanna's expert's use of cash basis accounting and explained that choice in extensive written reasons. As a result, the trial court ordered Karl to pay $2, 897.70 per month in child support, a figure that included agreed upon sums for private school tuition, associated fees, and costs. The trial court further ordered Karl to pay Alanna interim spousal support of $3, 085.00 per month.

         Karl appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in:

1. Failing to average the farm income over a period of time, while basing his opinion upon the farm income of a single, extremely atypical year.
2. Failing to reduce Karl's income by one-half of the farm income for the 2017 crop year, which belonged to Alanna.
3. Failing to reduce Karl's income by one-half of the government payments for the 2017 crop year, which belonged to Alanna.
4. Failing to exclude, as income, the sale of farm equipment and while including it failed to consider that one-half of the proceeds belonged to Alanna.
5. Failing to reduce Karl's income and/or deviate from the child support guidelines relative to the debt owed to the Bank of Commerce as set forth in the lawsuit marked as exhibit K-3.
6. Failing to attribute one-half of the revenue from crop sales, government payments and the sale of farm equipment to Alanna.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         Child Support

         Karl advances numerous arguments regarding the trial court's calculation of farming income for purposes of assessing support obligations. Karl testified that the crawfish and rice farming operation has been sustained each year by farm loans and by government farming assistance.[2] He explained, however, that the operation "got behind" and "was barely getting by" before the August 2016 flood "wiped out everything." He explained that the flooding affected both rice and crawfish crops.

         After the Hensgens allegedly failed to pay several of their farm loans, the lender, Bank of Commerce, filed suit against the couple in July 2018. The Bank's petition cited a balance due on promissory notes from March 2015 ($415, 800), April 2016 ($486, 750), and from August 2016 ($50, 065). This difficult financial situation, Karl suggests, undermines the trial court's determinations regarding his income for purposes of support.

         In assessing Karl's gross income, the trial court extensively referenced La.R.S. 9:315(C)(3)(c), which provides:

(3) "Gross income" means:
. . . .
(c) Gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income, for purposes of income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership or a partnership or closely held corporation. "Ordinary and necessary expenses" shall not include amounts allowable by the Internal Revenue Service for the accelerated component of depreciation expenses or investment tax credits or any other business expenses determined by the court to be inappropriate for determining gross income for purposes of calculating child support.

Id. (emphasis added).

         This statute, the trial court determined, was consistent with the accounting method relied upon by Alanna's expert in accounting, Chris Rainey, C.P.A. Mr. Rainey, who employed a cash method of accounting, reviewed, in part, the Hensgens' tax returns for 2016 and 2017 for insight into the farm business's "gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income" for those years. With those income/expense figures provided by the returns, Mr. Rainey explained that he made "adjustments" to the return as required by La.R.S. 9:315(C)(3)(c).

         Mr. Rainey distinguished the cash basis method from the accrual based accounting method advanced by Karl's expert, Steven Soileau, C.P.A. Cash basis, Mr. Rainey explained, accounts for income when it is received and not earned, whereas the accrual basis accounts for when it is earned and not received. The cash basis method also accounts for expenses as they are actually paid. Mr. Rainey thus reasoned that the former method better reflects income available for child support on a year-to-year basis. Mr. Rainey's calculations were ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.