A. Hearing Officer – General
Pursuant to LSA R.S. 46:236.5, this Court hereby implements an expedited process for the establishment, modification, and enforcement of support obligations by authorizing and directing the Judge of the 31st Judicial District Court to nominate one or more Hearing Officers to hear support-related matters and to hire and employ any and all such other personnel deemed necessary to implement this procedure, all of who shall serve at the pleasure of the Court.
Such Hearing Officer(s) shall have authority to perform and shall perform any and all duties assigned to him, her, or them by the Judge of this Court which are consistent with LSA R.S. 46:236.5, as it presently exists or as it may be, from time to time, supplemented or amended in the future, including but not limited to, matters for the establishment of paternity and the establishment and enforcement of support and other domestic and family matters. Domestic and family matters shall include divorce and all issues ancillary to a divorce proceeding; all child-related issues such as paternity, filiation, custody, visitation, and support in non-marital cases; all protective orders filed in accordance with R.S. 46:2131 et seq., R.S. 46:2151 et seq., and all injunctions filed in accordance with R.S. 9:361, 371, and 372 and Code of Civil Procedure Articles 3601 et seq., which involve personal abuse, terrorizing, stalking, or harassment; and enforcement of orders in any of these matters, including contempt of court.
Said Hearing Officer(s) shall be prohibited from appearing or practicing before the 31st Judicial District Court.
The Judge of the 31st Judicial District Court shall fix the salary, or salaries, of the Hearing Officer(s) and any such personnel hired or employed to implement this procedure.
There shall be such number of Hearing Officers for the 31st Judicial District Court as authorized by the District Judge.
B. Matters to be Heard by Hearing Officer
1. The Hearing Officers shall perform Hearing Officer conferences on summary proceeding matters concerning child custody and visitation, child support, interim spousal support, final periodic support, use and occupancy of the family home, use of community movables property, contempt of court, attorney’s fees and such other matters as may be authorized by law or as directed by the District Judge. The attorneys and the parties shall appear before the Hearing Officer.
2. In all suits for annulment, divorce and separation, and in suits assigned to the family docket, each party shall prepare and submit the appropriate mandatory Hearing Officer conference affidavits and checklists within the time delays set forth herein. To the extent documents are relied upon by the Hearing Officer in making a recommendation, said documents shall be filed into the record of the proceeding unless waived by counsel of record, or by the party if unrepresented.
C. Hearing Officer Conference
1. After filing initial pleadings with the Court, all parties shall be required to attend a Hearing Officer conference with the assigned Hearing Officer, with the following exceptions:
(a) When a party is seeking final periodic spousal support, the matter shall be bifurcated and fixed in regular course on the Court’s docket for a determination of the issue of the mover’s freedom from fault. Thereafter, if the moving party is found to be free from fault, a Hearing Officer conference shall be scheduled as soon as the docket permits to determine the amount of final periodic spousal support. If either party timely objects to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation, the matter shall be fixed before the District Judge. If a bifurcated hearing is held, the ruling of the Court on the issue of fault shall be considered an interlocutory decree if the moving party is found free from fault and shall not be a final judgment until there has been a determination setting the amount of the spousal support.
(b) Termination of the community property regime in accordance with Civil Code Article 2374(c) which shall be set expeditiously by the Clerk.
(c) A judicial determination that the detailed descriptive list of a party is deemed to constitute the community assets and liabilities in accordance with R.S. 9:2801(A)(1)(a).
(d) Discovery motions which shall be set expeditiously by the Clerk.
(e) Matters that require the services of an attorney ad hoc to locate an absentee party when the appointed attorney has been unable to locate the absentee party.
(f) Preliminary injunctions between spouses as permitted by Code of Civil Procedure Article 3604(B).
(g) Motion for Sanctions.
2. The initial Hearing Officer conference shall be scheduled as soon as the docket permits following the filing of the pleading.
3. If there are complicated or extraordinary issues that will require a Hearing Officer conference longer than thirty (30) minutes, the Hearing Officer may schedule a longer Hearing Officer conference to accommodate the issues of the case at a later date, prior to the rule date.
4. All attorneys shall bring their calendars to the Hearing Officer conference to facilitate in scheduling additional conferences or rule dates.
5. At the Hearing Officer conference, the Hearing Officer shall determine the issues of the case and in conjunction therewith, shall hear and make recommendations regarding:
(a) All aspects of custody and visitation.
(b) Establishment and modification of child and spousal support.
(c) Contested and uncontested paternity cases.
(d) The use and occupancy of the family home and use of community movable property pursuant to LA R.S. 9:374(c).
(e) The method of collection of child and spousal support.
(f) Calculation of arrearages, contempt of court, attorney’s fees, and sanctions as provided by law.
(g) The referral of parties to mediation.
D. Hearing Officer Recommendation and Objection Procedure
1. A copy of any written recommendation rendered by the Hearing Officer shall be provided to the parties and their counsel at the time of the Hearing Officer’s ruling, if present. The recommendation(s) of the Hearing Officer shall be filed into the record but shall not be provided to the Judge hearing the case. Further, the parties shall complete the appropriate portions of the Appendix 23.0B Family Law Affidavit for child support and spousal support, including the Income and Expense Sheet in Part VIII. The Hearing Officer will file other documentation as deemed relevant.
2. If both parties agree to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation on the day of the Hearing Officer conference, then the Hearing Officer’s recommendation shall become a final order after signature by the Judge. Both parties must sign a waiver to the five (5) day objection period.
3. Any party who disagrees with a recommendation of a Hearing Officer on a matter set forth may file a timely written objection thereto with the Clerk of Court’s office.
4. The Hearing Officer’s recommendation is deemed a temporary order on all matters which shall be forwarded to the District Judge for consideration as a temporary order after the objection period has expired.
5. If a written objection to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation is timely filed by either party, then the Hearing Officer recommendation shall be forwarded to the District Judge who may accept, reject, or modify it in whole or in part as a temporary order after the objection period has expired until a contradictory hearing can be had. Any such temporary order signed by the District Judge shall be considered interlocutory in nature.
6. Upon timely written objection filed by either party, the matter shall proceed to the scheduled contradictory hearing (or a contradictory hearing shall then be scheduled if not previously fixed) where the Judge shall hear the matter de novo.
7. To preserve the right of de novo review, in the event of an objection to the Hearing Officer’s recommendations, there shall be no discussion regarding the merits of the case with the District Judge.
8. If no written objection is filed with the Clerk of Court within the time and manner established, the recommendation shall become a final judgment of the Court and shall be signed by the District Judge as a final judgment. The judgment, after signature by the District Judge, shall be served upon the parties in accordance with law.
9. Parties and attorneys are advised in the initial order fixing the Hearing Conference the required documents and income information to be brought to the Hearing Officer conference. Additionally, the parties are required to bring the completed Family Law Affidavit(s) to the Hearing Officer conference.
10. If either party does not provide the required financial information as ordered by the Court at the Hearing Officer conference necessary to make a determination as to the amount of child support or spousal support, then the Hearing Officer, in order to do substantial justice, may recommend that the party failing to produce the financial information be found in contempt of court with sanctions to be imposed and/or may recommend that the matter be dismissed without prejudice and/or may recommend that good cause exists to modify the retroactivity of the award and/or may make temporary recommendations based upon the limited information provided. If the Hearing Officer is unable to make a recommendation based upon the information provided, the Court may set a limited hearing for purposes of fixing temporary child support or spousal support. The temporary order shall be without prejudice and shall not affect claims of retroactivity except for good cause shown.
11. Children shall not be brought to the Hearing Officer conference.
E. Title IV-D Cases
With the objective of facilitating the hearing of domestic, support, and alimony issues and other collateral rule mattes, there is established an expedited hearing process as follows:
In all non-Title IV-D (Social Security Act) cases, the Court hereby assesses a fee of five percent (5%) on all support obligations made executory on or after July 1, 1994, as a result of a hearing on a rule to enforce support.
In all Title IV-D (Social Security Act) cases presently pending and arising in the future, each support payment, including existing arrearages and future arrearages as well as ongoing support payments, is hereby increased by five percent (5%).
F. Domestic Violence Protective Orders
1. Pursuant to LSA R.S. 46:2135 and R.S. 46:236.5, Title 9 of the Louisiana Children’s Code and the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, the Court hereby authorizes the Hearing Officer to hear and dispose of all matters pertaining to Protective Orders.
2. The Hearing Officer shall hear all Protective Orders rules in Jefferson Davis Parish.
3. Any party desiring to appeal the Hearing Officer’s recommendations shall immediately notify the deputy clerk of court present in the courtroom. Both parties shall remain in the courtroom until notified of the date and place of the rehearing before the district judge. The rehearing shall be held before the judge whom the case is assigned on the earliest convenient date, but in any event, within thirty (30) days of the objection. Where an objection is made, the temporary restraining order shall be extended until the date of the rehearing.
4. It is intended that the Hearing Officer shall fully exercise all powers and authority granted by law in connection with protective orders, and nothing herein shall be construed to limit those statutory powers.