Richard E. Chaudoir filed a rule seeking to obtain joint custody of his twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Jean Chaudoir. A prior judgment had awarded sole custody to the mother, Nora Jean Hamilton Chaudoir. The mother also filed a rule to increase child support from $350.00 per month to $550.00 per month. Both rules were heard on March 7, 1983. The trial court granted the father's request for joint custody and adopted a plan for implementation of its custody order. The court denied the mother's request for an increase in child support.
The mother has appealed the decision of the trial court and raises several issues:
The father, Richard E. Chaudoir, and the mother, Nora Jean Hamilton Chaudoir, were divorced in 1974, in Alexandria, Louisiana, their last matrimonial domicile. The mother received sole custody of their daughter, Elizabeth Jean Chaudoir. On November 30, 1981, the judgment was modified to specify the father's visitation privileges. The 1981 judgment provided for visitation privileges as follows:
Except for a short period of time when they lived in Shreveport, mother and child have resided in or near Baton Rouge since 1974. The mother has not remarried. She teaches school at Sacred Heart School in Baton Rouge, the same school in which the child was enrolled in the sixth grade at the time of the hearing.
The father has continued to reside in Alexandria, Louisiana, where he has a law practice. He has remarried and has a four-year-old child from his second marriage. During all of the time that the mother has had sole custody of Elizabeth, the father has exercised his visitation privileges and has maintained a close and loving relationship with his daughter.
Apparently the major source of friction between the father and the mother since their divorce has been the father's exercise of his visitation privileges. There have been disagreements over the interpretation of the father's visitation privileges, the father claiming that he is entitled to more visitation time, the mother, that he is entitled to less. The mother has also complained that the child's visitation with her father has interfered with activities such as dance and tennis, particularly in the summer when, under the 1981 judgment, the father was afforded four-day visitation every other weekend.
DID THE COURT ERR IN AWARDING JOINT CUSTODY?
LSA-C.C. Art. 157 governs change in custody after a divorce and provides that permanent custody shall be granted in accordance with LSA-C.C. Art. 146. Since the time of the hearing of this matter, Art. 146 has been amended. At the time of the hearing, Section C read:
Subsequently, Section C was amended. The 1983 amendment changed Section C to:
We will apply Article 146 as amended. The general rule that a statute can only have prospective application applies only to substantive laws as distinguished from merely procedural or remedial laws which will be given retroactive application in the absence of language showing contrary intent. Fullilove v. U.S. Casualty of New York, 129 So.2d 816 (La.App. 1961), cert. denied June 22, 1961 (no citation found). Since we consider Art. 146 to be quasi-procedural and also consider the 1983 amendment to be remedial, we feel that Art. 146 as amended in 1983 should apply retrospectively to the instant case.
As can be seen, one of the major changes in Art. 146 as a result of the most recent amendment is that it no longer provides that the presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child does not apply if the court, in fact, finds that joint custody would not be in the best interest of the child. As a result, the presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child always exists—it is no longer within the court's discretion to decide that the presumption is not applicable. The presumption, however, remains a rebuttable one and the other major change worked by the most recent amendment is the addition of a list of factors which must be considered in determining if the presumption has been rebutted.
We have closely examined the evidence in the record before us in light of these
We take the liberty of quoting from the trial judge's written reasons for judgment:
Additionally, we note that the child testified that the relationship between her and her father was a good one.
While it is true that the mother has had sole custody of the child for nine and one-half years and that it is desirable to maintain continuity, the implementation plan for joint custody adopted by the court results in the child spending no more than an additional month each year with the father. Additionally, the joint custody plan, by eliminating the four-day weekend visitations that the father was accorded under the old plan, will result in less disruption of the child's activities.
Having considered the evidence in light of the factors set forth in Art. 146, we conclude that the mother has not rebutted the presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the lower court awarding joint custody and establishing an implementation plan for the carrying out of that custody award.
DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR IN INTERPRETING ARTICLE 146 TO AUTHORIZE SHARED RESIDENCES?
In her brief, the mother contends that the legislature only intended for joint custody to mean shared responsibility and did not intend for it to involve the children spending part of their lives with one parent and part with the other. We have looked at Art. 146 and conclude that the legislature did intend for joint custody to include the sharing of physical custody of the child and as a result, the sharing of residences by the child.
The article provides, in part:
It also provides:
As should be clear from these excerpts, Article 146 unequivocably expresses the intention of the legislature that parents not only share responsibility, but they share physical custody of the child. The mother's contention that the legislature intended for joint custody to only involve shared responsibility and not shared physical custody is without merit.
SHOULD THE COURT HAVE ALLOWED THE INTRODUCTION OF THE DEPOSITION OF A CHILD PSYCHIATRIST?
At the hearing of this matter, the mother's attorney attempted to introduce a deposition
In matters regarding the introduction into evidence of depositions, the trial court is vested with discretion. Schneider v. Proctor and Gamble Mfg. Co., 411 So.2d 669 (La.App. 4 Cir.1982); Harrison v. State, Dept. of Highways, 375 So.2d 169 (La.App. 2 Cir.1979). We think that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the deposition.
Furthermore, even if it had been error for the trial court to exclude the deposition, that error would have been harmless. We have considered the deposition which was included in the record as a proffer. Most of the psychiatrist's testimony related to a custody arrangement which was not at issue in the present case. That part of the psychiatrist's testimony which touched upon joint custody was, for the most part, in the nature of a general critique of joint custody. Any error in excluding the deposition would have been harmless.
DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR IN REDUCING CHILD SUPPORT TO CONFORM WITH ITS JOINT CUSTODY PLAN?
The trial court found the approximate cost of the child's expenses (food, recreation, etc.) of which the mother would be relieved when the child was with the father was $150.00 per month. The court reduced the mother's child support by this amount for June, July, and August of each year. The court explained this decision in its supplemental reasons for judgment:
A trial court is vested with considerable discretion in fixing the amount of child support, and its judgment in this matter will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Ducote v. Ducote, 339 So.2d 835 (La.1976); Bertrand v. Bertrand, 401 So.2d 552 (La.App. 3 Cir.1981); Arceneaux v. Arceneaux, 426 So.2d 745 (La.App. 3 Cir.1983); Johnson v. Johnson, 432 So.2d 1140 (La.App. 3 Cir.1983). We find that, in
DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR IN DENYING THE MOTHER'S REQUEST FOR AN INCREASE IN CHILD SUPPORT?
The jurisprudential rule governing requests for a change in an award of child support is that a change of circumstances must be proved to warrant a change in the prior award. Fakouri v. Perkins, 322 So.2d 401 (La.App. 3 Cir.1975). In the instant case, the trial court found that there had been no change in the circumstances that would warrant an increase in child support. A trial court's judgment in fixing child support will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Bertrand v. Bertrand, supra; Fakouri v. Perkins, supra; Ducote v. Ducote, supra.
After a careful reading of the record, we have concluded that the trial court did not err in denying the mother's request for an increase in child support. The mother attempted to show that the father's income had substantially increased since the previous judgment was rendered. The evidence, however, indicated that the father's income had not increased or had increased only slightly since the previous award. The mother also attempted to show the child's living expenses had increased. The mother, however, admitted that some of the increase was due to inflation. An increase in the cost of living due to inflation is not a basis for a change in a child support award. Fakouri v. Perkins, supra. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that there had been no increase in the child's living expenses which would justify an increase in the child's living expenses which would justify an increase in the father's child support obligation. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's denial of the mother's request for an increase in child support.
For the above and foregoing reasons, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed. All costs of this appeal are assessed against plaintiff-appellant.
DOMENGEAUX, J., dissents and assigns written reasons.
DOMENGEAUX, Judge, dissenting.
Joint custody in Louisiana was prohibited by jurisprudential fiat since at least 1933. The feminist movement throughout the country has, in my opinion, backfired against mothers insofar as the time-honored "maternal preference rule" is concerned. The Louisiana Legislature, succumbing to certain idealisms, and presumably in an effort to eliminate all differences of sex,
In this case I feel that the trial judge has erred in ordering joint custody. Without going into detail, the record indicates, I believe, that under the amended statute La.C.C. Art. 146(C)(2), joint custody is not in the best interest of 12 year old Elizabeth, who has been in her mother's sole custody since she was approximately two years old under favorable and commendable conditions.
Additionally, I feel that the trial judge erred in not allowing the psychiatrist's deposition into evidence. The doctor's testimony could be considered as part of "an investigation" as allowed under La.C.C. 146. Mrs. Chaudoir testified that the child's visitations with the father, and the controversy of the father's attitude had caused problems with the child, such that it became necessary that she be seen by a psychiatrist. The trial court should have allowed itself to be enlightened on that subject.
I respectfully dissent and would leave the sole custody of the child with the mother. Alternatively, I would at least remand the case for further delving into such psychiatric inquiry as may be necessary and which might effect joint custody of this child.
The nature of my dissent here precludes the necessity of commenting on the question of child support except to say that in the event sole custody were to remain in the mother, child support should be increased.