State v. Titus, NUMBER 2018 CU 1511

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Writing for the CourtWHIPPLE, C.J.
Citation274 So.3d 591
Parties STATE of Louisiana v. Jamal TITUS
Docket NumberNUMBER 2018 CU 1511
Decision Date28 February 2019

274 So.3d 591

STATE of Louisiana
v.
Jamal TITUS

NUMBER 2018 CU 1511

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit.

Judgment Rendered: FEBRUARY 28, 2019


Travis Turner, Keyojuan Turner, Gonzales, LA, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant, Ashley Armstead

Hillar Moore, III, Baton Rouge, LA, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee, Louisiana Department of Children and Family, et al.

Austin H. Benton, Baton Rouge, LA, Tiffany L. Foxworth, Baton Rouge, LA, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee, Jamal Titus

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

WHIPPLE, C.J.

In this custody matter, the mother, Ashley Armstead, appeals from a judgment of the family court denying her request to relocate the minor children and designating the father, Ja'mal Titus,1 as the domiciliary parent. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the family court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Ashley Armstead ("Ashley") and Ja'mal Titus ("Ja'mal") are the parents of two minor children, J.T., born in 2006, and A.T., bom in 2008.2 The parties never married; however, Ja'mal is listed as the father of the children on their birth certificates.

Based on the agreement of the parties, on March 17, 2014, the family court signed

274 So.3d 595

a stipulated judgment in which the parties agreed that Ashley and Ja'mal would share joint physical custody of the minor children, with Ashley designated as the domiciliary parent. The judgment further provided that the parties were to enroll in the Our Family Wizard Program through the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court, communicate regarding the care of the children and all school and extracurricular activities, and permit the noncustodial parent contact with the children daily by telephone between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. Ja'mal was awarded physical custody of the minor children three weekends per month from Thursday at pickup from school until Sunday at 3:00 p.m., with the exchange location designated as the maternal grandmother's home on The House of Lancaster Drive in Baton Rouge, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the parties. Ashley was awarded physical custody of the minor children on the weekend Ja'mal was exercising monthly military drill duties.3 The parties agreed to alternate weekly visitation during the summer.

On September 8, 2017, Ja'mal filed a rule to modify physical custody and support, contending that on September 4, 2017, Ashley notified him via a text message that she had relocated with the minor children from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Youngsville, Louisiana, a distance of over 75 miles from Ashley's address in Baton Rouge, and, further, that she had done so without first obtaining his consent. Ja'mal contended that the move was "reckless and harmful" to the children, disrupted their schooling, completely changed every aspect of their lives, and prevented him from exercising his designated periods of visitation and physical custody of the children. Ja'mal averred that this change in circumstances in the lives of the children warranted a modification of the physical custody schedule. Thus, he requested that the family court order that the children be immediately returned to Baton Rouge to primarily reside with him and that Ashley be awarded alternating weekend visitation. Ja'mal further requested that he be designated as the domiciliary parent, contending that Ashley frequently enrolled the children in different schools and school districts, which he averred was "turbulent" for the emotional development and stability of the children.

Ashley filed an answer and reconventional demand, contending she had recently married in July of 2017, and that she and the children moved to Youngsville to live with her husband, Marcus Amos. Ashley further contended that although the distance to Youngsville is less than 75 miles, she notified Ja'mal of the move via text message and that subsequently, with the help of counsel, she provided notice to Ja'mal pursuant to LSA-R.S. 9:355.4.4 Ashley further averred that she relocated for a job opportunity as a registered nurse at Women and Children's Hospital in Lafayette and that the children's material, educational, and emotional needs could continue to be met at their new home. Accordingly, Ashley requested that the previous custody arrangement remain in place with a new designated exchange location.

Pending a trial on the matter, an interim stipulated judgment was entered into by the parties on October 17, 2017. The matter was ultimately tried before the family

274 So.3d 596

court on January 8, 2018. At the conclusion of trial, the family court ruled orally, finding that the relocation was in excess of 75 miles such that the relocation statutes applied, and that Ashley failed to meet her burden of showing that the relocation was in good faith and in the best interest of the children pursuant to LSA-R.S. 9:355.14. In so ruling, the family court found that Ashley's testimony that she found a job that paid slightly more than her nursing job in Baton Rouge was insufficient to meet her burden, when there was no evidence that Ashley searched for a higher paying job in Baton Rouge or the surrounding area. The court determined that instead, the purpose of Ashley's move to Youngsville was to live with her husband. The family court found that Ashley failed to properly notify Ja'mal of the relocation, ordered that the children be returned to East Baton Rouge Parish immediately, and ordered that Ashley be sanctioned by paying Ja'mal's expenses in objecting to the relocation pursuant to LSA-R.S. 9:355.6.

As to designation of the domiciliary parent, the family court then reviewed the best interest factors outlined in LSA-C.C. art. 134 and determined that it was in the best interest of the children that Ja'mal be designated as the domiciliary parent. The family court awarded Ashley two weekends of visitation per month, with one being the weekend Ja'mal had military drill duties, and ordered that the parties were to alternate weekly visitation during the summer and share holidays.

On April 2, 2018, the family court signed a "Considered Decree," finding that there had been a material change in circumstances since the 2014 stipulated judgment, which had designated Ashley as the domiciliary parent of the minor children, and thereby ordered that:5

(1) Ashley's request to relocate J.T. and A.T. to Youngsville was denied;

(2) J.T. and A.T. were to be returned to East Baton Rouge Parish immediately;

(3) Ashley's status as the domiciliary parent of J.T. and A.T. was terminated;

(4) Ja'mal was designated as the domiciliary parent of J.T. and A.T.;

(5) Ja'mal's request for make-up visitation was denied;

(6) J.T. and A.T. were to be exchanged at the maternal grandparent's home on The House of Lancaster Drive in Baton Rouge, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the parties;

(7) J.T. and A.T. primarily reside with Ja'mal and that Ashley be provided with physical custody of the minor children for two weekends a month, with one of those weekends being the weekend that Ja'mal is attending military drill;

(8) Ja'mal and Ashley equally share physical custody of J.T. and A.T. during the children's summer vacation from school;

(9) The parties equally share the children's holidays from school and mutually agree on a holiday visitation schedule. In the event that the parties are unable to agree upon a holiday schedule, the parties may request that the trial court establish a court date for the purpose of setting a holiday schedule. Until the parties agree on a holiday schedule, the current holiday schedule found within the previous judgments in this matter would apply;

(10) Ashley was in contempt of court for failing to facilitate visitation from the time she moved to
274 So.3d 597
Youngsville until the interim visitation judgment was rendered on October 17, 2017;

(11) Ashley was responsible for payment of $ 3,500.00 in reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, for her act of contempt and failure to comply with the relocation statute (to be paid within 90 days of the rendering of judgment); and

(12) All court costs were assessed to Ashley.

Following the denial of her motion for new trial, Ashley filed the instant appeal, contending that the family court: (1) erred in denying her motion for new trial after improperly applying the relocation statutes; (2) erred by improperly weighing the factors for consideration of the best interest of the child set forth in LSA-C.C. art. 134 ; and (3) erred in designating Ja'mal as the domiciliary parent and uprooting the children from their mother with whom they have primarily resided since birth.6

DISCUSSION

Assignment of Error Number One

In her first assignment of error, Ashley contends that the family court erred in denying her motion for new trial. Specifically, she contends that the relocation statutes were incorrectly applied herein, where the relocation distance is less than 75 miles utilizing radial or "as-the-crow-flies" miles to calculate the distance, rather than roadway miles.

The statutes that govern the relocation of a child's residence, codified in LSA-R.S. 9:355.1, et seq. , apply if there is a court order awarding custody and there is an intent to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 practice notes
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Parish, 2020 CA 0745
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 25, 2021
    ...upon the applicability of the Balance Billing Act, which was an issue not considered by this court in Leet I .12 322 So.3d 283 Leet I, 274 So.3d at 591 n.6. Because the Act does not apply, plaintiff's claims against Lane Regional in this case cannot be maintained. Lane Regional was entitled......
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Par., NO. 2020 CA 0745
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 25, 2021
    ...dependent upon the applicability of thePage 13 Balance Billing Act, which was an issue not considered by this court in Leet I.12 Leet I, 274 So.3d at 591 n.6. Because the Act does not apply, plaintiff's claims against Lane Regional in this case cannot be maintained. Lane Regional was entitl......
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Parish, NUMBER 2018 CA 1148
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 28, 2019
    ...her mortgage company. Additionally, we note that a summary judgment "may be rendered or affirmed only as to those issues set forth in 274 So.3d 591 the motion under consideration by the court at that time." LSA-C.C.P. art. 966(F). See also McGrew v. Waguespack, 2014-0251 (La. App. 1st Cir. ......
3 cases
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Parish, 2020 CA 0745
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 25, 2021
    ...upon the applicability of the Balance Billing Act, which was an issue not considered by this court in Leet I .12 322 So.3d 283 Leet I, 274 So.3d at 591 n.6. Because the Act does not apply, plaintiff's claims against Lane Regional in this case cannot be maintained. Lane Regional was entitled......
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Par., NO. 2020 CA 0745
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 25, 2021
    ...dependent upon the applicability of thePage 13 Balance Billing Act, which was an issue not considered by this court in Leet I.12 Leet I, 274 So.3d at 591 n.6. Because the Act does not apply, plaintiff's claims against Lane Regional in this case cannot be maintained. Lane Regional was entitl......
  • Leet v. Hosp. Serv. Dist. No. 1 of E. Baton Rouge Parish, NUMBER 2018 CA 1148
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • February 28, 2019
    ...her mortgage company. Additionally, we note that a summary judgment "may be rendered or affirmed only as to those issues set forth in 274 So.3d 591 the motion under consideration by the court at that time." LSA-C.C.P. art. 966(F). See also McGrew v. Waguespack, 2014-0251 (La. App. 1st Cir. ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT