FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
CALCASIEU, NO. 28222 HONORABLE W. MITCHELL REDD, DISTRICT
Shunette Thomas-Jordan COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: K.S.
McGray COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: K.M. (child) CM.,
Jr. (child) Wa.St. (child) A.S. (child) Kr.S. (child) W.S.
Wade Smith COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: W.St. (father)
K. Stratton COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: CM., Sr. (father)
Bethany Blackson COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE:
composed of D. Kent Savoie, Van H. Kyzar, and David E.
Chatelain, [*] Judges.
defendant, K.S.,  appeals from a judgment adjudicating her
and two of her children as being a family in need of services
and granting permanent custody of two other children to their
father, despite finding that none of the children were
children in need of care. On considering the record before
us, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.
OF THE RECORD
the mother of six minor children: CM., Jr. and K.M., who were
born as a result of her former marriage to CM., Sr., and
Wa.St., A.S., Kr.S., and W.S., who were born as a result of
her relationship with W.St. The two youngest children, Kr.S.,
born July 16, 2014, and W.S., born September 13, 2015, were
both delivered prematurely and suffer from significant health
issues. On October 23, 2015, a complaint of neglect was filed
with the State of Louisiana, through the Department of
Children and Family Services (the State), resulting in an
oral instanter order being issued by the trial court, placing
the six children in the State's custody.
October 26, 2015, the State filed a petition seeking to have
all six children declared to be in need of care, pursuant to
Title VI of the Louisiana Children's Code. The
allegations centered primarily on K.S.'s medical neglect
of her two youngest children. At a continued custody hearing
that same day, K.S. denied all of the State's
allegations, but agreed to the State's continued custody
of the children. At the close of the hearing, the trial court
placed Wa.St, A.S., Kr.S., and W.S. in the temporary custody
of the state, while K.M. and CM., Jr. were placed in the
temporary custody of their father, CM., Sr., all pending the
adjudication hearing. Judgment continuing the children in the
State's custody was rendered on April 7, 2016.
two-day adjudication hearing concluded on August 5, 2016. At
the close of the State's case, K.S. moved for an
involuntary dismissal of its claims, which the trial court
took under advisement. On August 15, 2016, the trial court
issued written reasons for judgment in which it granted in
part and denied in part K.S.'s motion for involuntary
dismissal. The trial court held that the State failed to
prove that Wa.St. and A.S. were children in need of care or
in need of services and dismissed the State's claims as
to those children. The trial court also held that the State
failed to prove that Kr.S. and W.S. were children in need of
care, but held that the State's evidence might be
sufficient to adjudicate them as a family in need of
services. Thus, the trial court denied K.S.'s motion as
to these children and continued the matter for trial on the
issue of family in need of services. Finally, the trial court
ordered that CM., Sr.'s temporary custody of K.M. and
CM., Jr. become permanent, subject to reasonable visitation
by K.S. and ordered that the State be released from its
supervision of those children.
at the August 17, 2015 hearing on the family services issue,
the trial court reiterated that it was granting in part and
denying in part K.S.'s motion for involuntary dismissal.
It dismissed the State's petition as it related to Wa.St.
and A.S. and ordered the children returned to K.S.'s
custody. The trial court further dismissed the State's
petition as it related to K.M. and CM., Jr., but granted
permanent custody of the children to their father, CM., Sr.
At the conclusion of these rulings, the trial court asked how
the parties wished to proceed on the family services issue in
regards to Kr.S. and W.S. All of the parties rested at that
time. The trial court then ruled that Kr.S. and W.S. were in
need of family services and ordered that a family services
plan be prepared for the children. An adjudication judgment
was rendered by the trial court on August 25, 2016. An
amended adjudication judgment was rendered on August 26,
2016. This appeal followed. K.S. is the only party who has
appealed from the trial court's judgment.
appeal, K.S. asserts two assignments of error committed by
the trial court. They are as follows:
1. The trial court erred in denying, in part, [K.S.'s]
motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to La. C.C.
Art. 1672, because the State failed to meet its burden
of proof in proving neglect such as to warrant an
adjudication of any of the children being children in need of
care. The State also failed to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the family was a family in need of services
as required by La. Ch. C. Art. 666 and La. Ch. C. Art.
730 respectively. Absent a finding of neglect or that
the family is a family in need of services, the trial court
was without jurisdiction to render a judgment of custody, and
thus erred in granting permanent custody of [K.M.] and [CM.,
Jr.] to their father [CM., Sr.]
2. The trial court erred in adjudicating the children [Kr.S.]
and [W.S.] as a family in need of services, in that there is
no evidence in the record to support such a ruling.
procedural device of involuntary dismissal, as it pertains to
bench trials, is found in La.Code ...