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State, Department of Children and Family Services v. Knapp

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 12, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT IN THE INTEREST OF CHRISTOPHER BUSHMAN MINOR CHILD(REN) OF CHRISTINA BUSHMAN
v.
JAMES KNAPP

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2010-07846, DIVISION "K" Honorable Bernadette D'Souza, Judge

          Martha J. Maher COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          STEPHEN RUE & ASSOCIATES COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore [*]

          MADELEINE M. LANDRIEU, JUDGE

         This appeal arises from a dispute between Ms. Christina Bushman and Mr. James Knapp over the care, custody and parenting of their only child, Christopher. Specifically, Ms. Bushman has filed this appeal from a judgment of July 15, 2016 which, among other things, granted Mr. Knapp's petition to be designated as Christopher's domiciliary parent, held Ms. Bushman in contempt of court for her failure to allow Mr. Knapp his summer visitation, and held Ms. Bushman in contempt of court for conduct which served to diminish the child's love and affection for Mr. Knapp. Additionally, Ms. Bushman appeals the trial court's denial of the rules for contempt she filed against Mr. Knapp for his failure to notify her when the child was not in his physical care overnight and for his failure to reimburse her for the minor child's uncovered medical expenses. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Knapp and Ms. Bushman were once involved a short-term dating relationship lasting several months, which resulted in the birth of the minor child, Christopher, on November 21, 2009. Ms. Bushman testified that she was five months pregnant before she learned that she was expecting and, by that time, she and Mr. Knapp were no longer dating. When Ms. Bushman learned of her pregnancy, she wrote to Mr. Knapp, who, at the time, was travelling in Europe, having recently graduated from college. She also contacted Mr. Knapp's brother, Kyle, and asked that he contact Mr. Knapp directly to advise him of her pregnancy. Because of Ms. Bushman's involvement with at least one other gentleman following the demise of their dating relationship, Mr. Knapp was not convinced that he was the father of the child. Shortly after the child was born, but prior to his paternity being established, Mr. Knapp moved to North Carolina where he remained for several years.

         In July 2010, when Christopher was eight months old, Ms. Bushman filed a Petition to Establish an Order of Child Support through the State of Louisiana. Paternity testing confirmed that Mr. Knapp was Christopher's biological father. Thereafter, in January of 2011, while residing in North Carolina, Mr. Knapp filed a petition requesting that he and Ms. Bushman be awarded joint custody of Christopher, with Ms. Bushman being designated as the domiciliary parent. His petition also requested that he be granted reasonable visitation, and that co-parenting guidelines be established. When the matter came for hearing in March 2011, an Interim Judgment was entered granting Mr. Knapp limited supervised visitation and ordering the parties to undergo drug testing.[1] An Interim Judgment was entered on June 13, 2011 wherein Ms. Bushman was awarded primary physical custody of Christopher and Mr. Knapp was granted periods of physical custody with the minor child in Louisiana with specific parameters regarding times and pick-up locations.[2] Additionally, the parties were ordered to participate in counseling with the Family Service of Greater New Orleans (with Mr. Knapp to participate by telephone) or, alternatively, to request that a parenting coordinator be assigned.

         Within a month, Mr. Knapp and Ms. Bushman each commenced filing cross motions for contempt against one another for various alleged violations of the Interim Judgment.[3] On August 22, 2011, a Consent Judgment was entered resolving these various cross-motions. In that judgment, the parties agreed to the following: joint custody of Christopher with Ms. Bushman designated as the domiciliary parent; to abide by specifically enumerated co-parenting guidelines;[4] to participate in parenting classes and to provide a certificate of completion to the opposing party; to refrain from making derogatory remarks about the other parent (or family) in front of Christopher; a detailed physical custody plan and set visitation schedule for Mr. Knapp (who continued to reside in North Carolina); a designated exchange place and times; a set holiday and summer visitation schedule with each party agreeing to inform the other party within 30 days of their intention to take the child on vacation and to provide a full itinerary, including but not limited to, flight and/or travel times, location, address, and telephone number of where the child would be staying; and, for the appointment of a parenting facilitator.[5]

         Several months later, in October 2011, Mr. Knapp filed a motion to decrease child support and a motion for contempt alleging that Ms. Bushman made disparaging and derisive comments about Mr. Knapp in front of the minor child in violation of the co-parenting guidelines. Ms. Bushman responded by filing peremptory exceptions of no cause of action and prematurity, which the trial court sustained, dismissing Mr. Knapp's motions on the basis that the Consent Judgment required Mr. Knapp to first present these issues to the parenting coordinator, which he failed to do.[6]

         Within ten months, the parties were back in court. In August 2012, Ms. Bushman sought an increase in child support as well as to have the court appoint a new parenting facilitator to replace the former appointee, with whom Mr. Knapp, feeling as if his concerns were not being adequately addressed, refused to participate. The following month, Mr. Knapp moved the court to modify the existing visitation schedule and to require Ms. Bushman to comply with the co-parenting guidelines by ceasing all negative and/or defamatory comments about him and/or his family. By judgment dated December 18, 2012, the trial court increased Mr. Knapp's child support obligation in accordance with the Louisiana Child Support Guidelines and the parties' respective incomes, having determined each parties' pro rata share, with Ms. Bushman bearing 71% responsibility of the child support obligation and Mr. Knapp bearing the remaining 29%. With respect to medical expenses, the judgment provided the manner in which the parties would pay and be reimbursed for medical expenses incurred on behalf of Christopher.[7]

         The judgment also ordered the parties to communicate via Our Family Wizard, [8] modified the summer vacation schedule, outlined the particulars regarding Mr. Knapp's weekend visitation, and delineated the daily phone communication with the minor child by the parent not exercising physical custody. Additionally, the judgment assigned a new parenting coordinator and required that the parties meet with her prior to filing any pleadings in court.

         During all of 2013 and the first eight months of 2014, no pleadings were filed by either party.[9] In August 2014, however, Mr. Knapp requested a status conference alleging that Ms. Bushman arbitrarily refused to grant him summer visitation with Christopher despite his compliance with all notice and informational requirements. Then, in September 2014, Mr. Knapp filed a rule for contempt, modification of the child custody and/or domiciliary status, and requested sanctions. Specifically, Mr. Knapp averred that Ms. Bushman "manipulate[d] the [December 18, 2012] judgment to her own advantage" by failing to recognize his joint custody rights, and "repeatedly interfer[ing] with [his] visitation rights." Mr. Knapp alleged that Ms. Bushman wrongfully denied him the right to take the minor child for a scheduled out-of-state vacation. Mr. Knapp also averred that Ms. Bushman was in contempt based on the following: calling and involving the police in order to prevent his court-ordered visitation and without regard to the emotional impact upon the [then] four-year-old child; violating the co-parenting guidelines by refusing to inform him of Christopher's fourth birthday party; repeatedly violating the co-parenting guidelines by making derogatory statements about Mr. Knapp within earshot and/or in the presence of the minor child, alienating the child's affections for Mr. Knapp; and, refusing to co-parent to the detriment of the minor child. Mr. Knapp's petition also alleged that his relocation from North Carolina to Louisiana constituted a material change in circumstances warranting a modification of child custody. Specifically, Mr. Knapp requested co-domiciliary status and equal parenting time, both of which he averred were in Christopher's best interest.

         In response, Ms. Bushman filed a motion to modify the physical custody plan to provide Christopher with a "more consistent physical custody plan during the regular months and a plan that does not involve [Mr.] Knapp having such extended periods of physical custody during the summer months." Additionally, Ms. Bushman filed a rule to compel Mr. Knapp to undergo a mental health examination, to modify child support so as to have Mr. Knapp pay his pro rata share of all of the child care, school and extracurricular activities, and for contempt and sanctions. Ms. Bushman identified concerns regarding Mr. Knapp's exhibition of "bizarre" behavior related to the practice of certain spiritual rituals (including the possibility of illicit drug use) and the potential impact these rituals may have upon Christopher. Ms. Bushman also expressed concerns related to Mr. Knapp's purported history of memory lapses, poor retention skills and school-related problems that potentially compromise his ability to properly parent and discipline Christopher. Regarding the rules for contempt, Ms. Bushman alleged that Mr. Knapp was in violation of prior court orders by refusing to do the following: timely return Christopher to the designated exchange location; exercise Father's Day visitation in 2013 and 2014; attend parenting classes and/or provide her with a certificate of completion of the court-ordered parenting classes; notify her of the child's whereabouts when he is in Mr. Knapp's care; communicate via Our Family Wizard; and, reimburse her for his pro rata share of extraordinary medical expenses incurred on behalf of the child.

         A hearing was held on November 18, 2014, which resulted in a Consent Judgment that was signed on January 8, 2015. In this judgment, the parties agreed to the appointment of Dr. Alan James Klein as the custody evaluator, with the costs to be split equally between the parties. The judgment also changed Mr. Knapp's visitation to every other weekend from Friday afternoon until Monday morning.[10]Additionally, Mr. Knapp was ordered to inform Ms. Bushman of the child's location in the event the child was not staying at Mr. Knapp's home during his period of physical custody. All other pending matters were pretermitted pending the custody evaluation and further orders of the court.

         Following the January 8, 2015 judgment, both parties filed various competing rules for contempt against one another. The trial on these multiple competing rules commenced on March 29, 2016 and lasted for three days, including June 15 and June 16, 2016. Also before the court were the parties' competing rules for modification of custody and visitation. The parties were in agreement and stipulated that Mr. Knapp's relocation from North Carolina to Mandeville, Louisiana in November 2013 constituted a material change in circumstances warranting a modification of their stipulated child custody decree.

         Following the three-day trial, judgment was rendered on July 15, 2016 accompanied by written reasons. The trial court awarded joint custody of the minor child to Mr. Knapp and Ms. Bushman and designated Mr. Knapp as the primary domiciliary parent. The court further ordered that the child be enrolled in school in Mandeville. Ms. Bushman was granted physical custody of the child every other weekend from Friday after school until Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m., and it was stipulated that the party receiving custody of Christopher was responsible for providing transportation. Ms. Bushman was also awarded two non-consecutive two-week periods of uninterrupted summer visitation and was ordered to provide Mr. Knapp with no less than 30 days' notice of her intent to exercise summer visitation. Each party was granted physical custody of Christopher on their own respective birthdays, and the parties were to alternate physical custody of Christopher on his birthday, with Mr. Knapp having custody in the even-numbered years and Ms. Bushman having custody during the odd-numbered years. All other holiday visitation was to remain as previously ordered in the August 2011 Consent Judgment. The judgment further ordered that the parent not exercising physical custody of Christopher was to be given a right of first refusal in the event the parent with physical custody is unable to care for Christopher for a period in excess of 24 hours.

         With respect to the competing rules for contempt, the July 15, 2016 judgment granted Mr. Knapp's rule for contempt for Ms. Bushman's failure to allow summer visitation, but denied his rule for contempt for her failure to pay Dr. Klein's custody evaluator fees.[11] Mr. Knapp's rule for contempt for Ms. Bushman's failure to abide by the co-parenting guidelines was granted insofar as it related to Ms. Bushman's attempt to diminish Christopher's love and affection for Mr. Knapp, but was denied as it related to her failure to provide information. Ms. Bushman was also ordered to pay Mr. Knapp's court costs and attorney's fees for her contempt. Ms. Bushman's rule for contempt against Mr. Knapp for his failure to reimburse her for uncovered medical expenses was denied, as was her rule for contempt for his failure to notify her when Christopher does not spend the night at his home.[12]

         It is from the July 15, 2016 judgment that Ms. Bushman appeals.

         In this appeal, Ms. Bushman assigns as error that the trial court abused its discretion: (1) by granting Mr. Knapp's rules for contempt for her failure to allow his summer vacation and ordering her to pay the associated court costs and attorney's fees, and for her diminishment of the child's love and affection for him; (2) by denying her rules for contempt against Mr. Knapp for failing to reimburse her for Christopher's uncovered medical expenses in violation of the December 12, 2012 judgment, and for failing to notify her when the child did not spend the night at his home in violation of the January 8, 2015 consent judgment; and (3) in granting domiciliary status to Mr. Knapp claiming that this change is not in Christopher's best interests and could potentially cause the child harm.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Standard of Review

         A. Contempt of Court

         Appellate courts review a trial court's finding of contempt by a manifestly erroneous standard. Jaligam v. Pochampally, 14-0724, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/11/15), 162 So.3d 464, 467. A trial court is vested with great discretion in determining whether circumstances warrant holding a party in contempt pursuant to the constructive contempt statute for willful disobedience of a judgment or order of the court. La. C.C.P. art. 224(2); South East Auto Dealers Rental Ass 'n, Inc. v. EZ Rent To Own, Inc., 09-0011, p. 8 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/30/10), 42 So.3d 1094, 1099.

         B. Child Custody Determinations

         Child custody determinations are reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. Leard v. Schenker, 06-1116, p. 3 (La. 6/16/06), 931 So.2d 355, 357. Thus, "the determination of the trial judge in a child custody matter is entitled to great weight and his discretion will not be disturbed on review in the absence of a clear showing of abuse." Id. at pp. 3-4, 931 So.2d at 357 (quoting AEB v. JBE, 99-2668, p. 7 (La. 11/30/99), 752 So.2d 756, 761.

         In most child custody cases, the trial court's rulings are based heavily on its factual findings. Hanks v. Hanks, 13-1442, p. 8 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/16/14), 140 So.3d 208, 214 (citing Palazzolo v. Mire, 08-0075, pp. 34-37 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/7/09), 10 So.3d 748, 768-70). "[A] court of appeal may not set aside a trial court's or a jury's findings of fact in the absence of 'manifest error' or unless it is 'clearly wrong.'" Evans v. Lungrin, 97-0541, 97-0577, p. 6 (La. 2/6/98), 708 So.2d 731, 735 (citing Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d. 840, 844 (La. 1989)).

         "Every child custody case must be viewed based on its own particular facts and relationships involved, with the goal of determining what is in the best interest of the child." Mulkey v. Mulkey, 12-2709, p. 15 (La. 5/7/13), 118 So.3d 357, 367; see La. C.C. art. 131 (providing that "the court shall award custody of a child in accordance with the best interest of the child"). In determining the best interest of the child, "[e]ach case must be viewed in light of the child's age, the situation of the parents, and any other factor relevant to the particular case." Palazzolo, 08-0075 at p. 35, 10 So.3d at 768.

         Because the trial judge is in a better position to evaluate the best interest of a child from his superior position to observe and evaluate the demeanor and credibility of the parties and the witnesses, his decision will not be disturbed on review absent a clear showing of abuse. Smith v. Smith, 07-0260, 07-0261, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/13/08), 977 So.2d 1114, 1116-17; Palazzolo, 08-0075 at p. 35, 10 So.3d at 768; Foshee v. Foshee, 12-1358, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 8/28/13), 123 So.3d 817, 820; Watts v. Watts, 08-0834, p. 2 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/8/09), 10 So.3d 855, 857. As this court recently noted in Jaligam v. Pochampally, 16-0249, p. 6 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/7/16), 206 So.3d 298, 303, "the court of appeal cannot simply substitute its own findings for that of the trial court." See also, Mulkey, 12-2709, p. 16, 118 So.3d at 368.

         II. Contempt Issues

         Contempt of court is defined in Article 221 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure as "any act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority." There are two types of contempt of court, direct and constructive. La. C.C.P. art. 221. Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 222 defines direct contempt of court as "one committed in the immediate view and presence of the court and of which it has personal knowledge, or a contumacious failure to comply with a subpoena or summons, proof of service of which appears of record."

         A constructive contempt of court is defined in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 224 as "any contempt other than a direct one." Willful disobedience of any lawful judgment constitutes a constructive contempt of court. La. C.C.P. art. 224(2). A court's finding that a person willfully disobeyed a lawful judgment in violation of La. C.C.P. art. 224(2) must be based on a finding that the accused violated an order of the court "intentionally, purposely, and without justifiable excuse." Burst v. Schmolke, 10-1036, p. 6 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/6/11), 62 So.3d 829, 833 (citing Lang v. Asten, Inc., 05-1119, p. 1 (La. 1/13/06), 918 So.2d 453, 454). The trial court is vested with great discretion in determining whether a party should be held in contempt for disobeying a court order and the court's decision should be reversed only when the appellate court discerns an abuse of that discretion. Id.

         On appeal, Ms. Bushman seeks reversal of four of the trial court's rulings on contempt and a reversal of the imposition of sanctions against her. We address each ruling separately.

         A. Failure to Allow Summer Visitation and the Imposition of Sanctions

         Ms. Bushman contends the trial court manifestly erred in its determination that she willfully disobeyed the August 22, 2011 Consent Judgment regarding visitation by failing to allow Mr. Knapp to exercise his summer vacation and abused its discretion in holding her in contempt of court based on that finding. We disagree. The applicable provision in the judgment provides, in pertinent part:

James Knapp may have physical custody of the minor child for three (3) consecutive weeks and may take the child out of the State of Louisiana for vacation. . . . Both parties must inform the other party within thirty (30) days of their intention to take the child on vacation and must provide the other party with a full itinerary, including but not limited to flight and/or travel times, location, address, and telephone numbers of where they will be staying[.]

         At trial, both parties testified that Mr. Knapp advised Ms. Bushman of his intent to exercise his summer visitation twenty-nine (29) days in advance, rather than the thirty (30) days required by the Consent Judgment. Despite his being one day late, Ms. Bushman initially consented to the proposed out-of-town vacation confirming the following in an email to Mr. Knapp: "Although the 25th through the 1st is not within the 30 day guidelines as per court order, those dates work out better for me." Mr. Knapp testified that he had planned a camping trip to Indiana for Christopher and himself and had provided Ms. Bushman with "all of the details" and information, including "what he'd be doing . . . [a]ddresses, phone numbers and all the information [the] Judge requires [he] give" regarding the vacation, but that five days prior to their scheduled departure, Ms. Bushman revoked her consent and refused to allow Christopher to make the trip. Consequently, Mr. Knapp was not allowed to exercise his visitation with Christopher.

         When asked at trial why she refused to allow the scheduled vacation, contrary to Mr. Knapp's testimony, Ms. Bushman testified that she kept asking Mr. Knapp to provide her with an adequate itinerary and details of the trip as required by the Consent Judgment and because he refused to do so, she revoked her consent. According to Ms. Bushman, Mr. Knapp's failure to provide the necessary itinerary information constituted a violation of the Consent Judgment. The trial court obviously did not credit her testimony.

         In her reasons for judgment, the trial judge stated:

The testimony and evidence indicated that, despite Mr. Knapp's failure to provide proper notice, Ms. Bushman agreed to the proposed summer visitation and then revoked her consent less than a week before the planned vacation. Because Ms. Bushman consented to Mr. Knapp's summer visitation and then revoked her consent a few days prior to that visitation, the Court finds her in contempt for failure to allow summer visitation.

         In essence, the trial court was confronted with two conflicting versions of the events leading up to the scheduled vacation and the reasons for its last minute cancellation. As to Mr. Knapp providing only 29 days' notice of his intent to exercise his summer vacation instead of the required 30-day notice, the trial court held that because Ms. Bushman agreed to it, this delay was not the gravamen of her complaint and not the reason why she revoked her consent. Ms. Bushman acknowledged as such. The real dispute before the court was whether Mr. Knapp timely provided to Ms. Bushman the details of the visitation as required by the judgment. The trial court apparently chose to accept as true Mr. Knapp's testimony that he provided Ms. Bushman with all of the necessary information regarding the trip over that of Ms. Bushman, who claimed that he did not.

         It is well settled that because the trial judge, as fact finder, is best aware of the variations in the demeanor and tone of voice that bear so heavily on the listener's understanding and belief in what is said, when a conflict exists in the testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even though the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable. Rosell, 549 So.2d at 844; Arceneaux v. Domingue, 365 So.2d 1330 (La. 1978). The reviewing court must always keep in mind that "if the trial court or jury's findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the court of appeal may not reverse, even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently." Sistler v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 558 So.2d 1106, 1112 (La. 1990). Consequently, when there are two permissible views of the evidence, the fact finder's choice between them cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong. Sistler, supra at 1112.

         Applying these legal precepts to the limited, conflicting testimony elicited at trial regarding the summer vacation, we cannot say the trial court was manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong in accepting as true Mr. Knapp's testimony that he did, in fact, provide Ms. Bushman with all of the necessary information required by the Consent Judgment. After reviewing the record, we are satisfied that Mr. Knapp's testimony establishes a "reasonable factual basis" for the trial court's finding that Ms. Bushman willfully disobeyed the August 2011 Consent Judgment and was in constructive contempt of court when she initially agreed to allow Mr. Knapp to exercise his summer visitation with the minor child, and then revoked her consent only days before the scheduled departure, thereby denying Mr. Knapp of his summer visitation.

         Ms. Bushman further challenges the July 15, 2016 judgment insofar as it ordered her to pay Mr. Knapp's attorney fees and costs associated with her contempt. Title 9 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, Section 346, governs actions against a parent for his or her failure to allow visitation pursuant to the terms of a court-ordered schedule. According to the statute, when the petitioner prevails in an action against the defendant for failure to allow visitation pursuant to a court-ordered schedule, "the defendant shall be held in contempt of court and the court shall award to the petitioner . . . all attorney fees and costs of the proceedings." See La. R.S. 9:346(C)(3). Title 13 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, Section 4611, also provides the punishment that a court may impose upon a parent adjudged guilty of contempt of court for violating a visitation order, including the payment of "all court costs and reasonable attorney fees of the other party." La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(e)(iv). Having determined the trial court did not err in adjudging Ms. Bushman guilty of contempt for violating the August 22, 2011 consent judgment by refusing to allow Mr. Knapp to exercise his court-ordered visitation, we likewise find that it was not an abuse of the trial court's discretion to impose sanctions in the form of attorney fees and costs upon Ms. Bushman pursuant to La. R.S.9:346(C)(3) and 13:4611(1)(e)(iv). This assignment of error is without merit.

         B. Failure to Abide by the Co-Parenting Guidelines

         Ms. Bushman appeals the July 15, 2016 judgment insofar as it adjudges her guilty of contempt for failing to abide by the co-parenting guidelines due to her diminishment of the child's love and affection for Mr. Knapp. According to Ms. Bushman, the evidence presented at trial does not support the trial court's finding that she constantly demeaned or made derogatory remarks about Mr. Knapp in front of the child.

         The co-parenting guidelines set forth in the August 22, 2011 Consent Judgment prohibit the parties from saying or doing anything in the presence or hearing of the child that would in any way diminish the child's love or affection for the other parent. In its reasons for judgment, the trial court found "[t]he testimony given at trial overwhelmingly contradicts Ms. Bushman's assertion that she has never attempted to diminish Christopher's love or affection for Mr. Knapp." After an extensive review of the trial court testimony and exhibits contained in the record, we agree.

         On appeal, Ms. Bushman argues that the record contains only one instance, to which she admitted, of her making a derisive remark about Mr. Knapp in front of the child, and that this one instance does not rise to a level warranting the trial court's finding of contempt. Specifically, Ms. Bushman admits that she told the child that it was "time [for him] to go with the bad people, " referring to Mr. Knapp and his mother, Mary Grace Knapp. Admitting her mistake as to that one occasion, Ms. Bushman explained that the demeaning statement was a result of her "emotional state of frustration" with Mr. Knapp at that time. Ms. Bushman further admitted to making derogatory statements in emails to Mr. Knapp, but denies that the child ever saw those emails or claims that, even if he did, given his age, he would not have been able to read them. Further, Ms. Bushman avers that because the alleged "vitriolic behavior, " about which Mr. Knapp complains, was exhibited by and between both parties, the trial court erred in finding her in contempt for such behavior.

         While it is clear from a review of the trial testimony that indeed an acrimonious and vitriolic relationship exists between the parties, it is not clear that Mr. Knapp has intentionally or purposely demeaned and/or degraded Ms. Bushman in front of their son.[13] The same cannot be said regarding Ms. Bushman. The record is replete with examples of her casting verbal aspersions toward Mr. Knapp in the presence of the child sufficient to establish that she repeatedly violated the co-parenting guidelines, including the following:

• Mr. Knapp described several occasions where Ms. Bushman verbally assailed him over the phone (or "bad-mouthed" him over the phone to his mother) ...

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