Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Leger v. Leger

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 7, 2017

MICHAEL J. LEGER, II
v.
DANIELLE GOTREAUX LEGER

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA, NO. 2014-10441 HONORABLE DAVID BLANCHET, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Lynette Young Feucht Lynette Young Feucht, LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Michael J. Leger, II

          Alexander T. Reinboth Emily G. Andrews Assistant Attorneys General COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE: Attorney General of the State of Louisiana

          Dona Kay Renegar G. Andrew Veazey Bradford H. Felder Veazey, Felder & Renegar, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR INTERVENOR/APPELLANT: John Jerome Fontenot

          Viel P. Caswell, Jr. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Danielle Gotreaux Leger

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE

         The appellant intervened in the underlying divorce proceeding, seeking a determination of paternity of a minor child born during the marriage. As the matter was filed more than one year after the child's birth, the trial court sustained the legal father's exception of peremption pursuant to La.Civ.Code art. 198. Although that ruling was affirmed by prior appeal, the appellant thereafter filed a petition in which he challenged Article 198 on constitutional grounds. The trial court denied the appellant's claim. He filed the present appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         As discussed in a previous proceeding before this court, the minor child who is the subject of these proceedings was born on August 21, 2012, during the marriage of Danielle Gotreaux Leger and Michael J. Leger, II. See Leger v. Leger, 15-151 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/30/15), 215 So.3d 773. However, after Mr. Leger commenced divorce proceedings in May 2016, the appellant, John Jerome Fontenot, filed a June 17, 2014 "Petition of Intervention, for Paternity, Custody, and Alternatively, Visitation[.]"[1] Alleging that DNA testing established that he was the biological father of the minor child, he asserted that he had been unable to timely file the avowal action pursuant to La.Civ.Code art. 198, which provides:

A man may institute an action to establish his paternity of a child at any time except as provided in this Article. The action is strictly personal.
If the child is presumed to be the child of another man, the action shall be instituted within one year from the day of the birth of the child. Nevertheless, if the mother in bad faith deceived the father of the child regarding his paternity, the action shall be instituted within one year from the day the father knew or should have known of his paternity, or within ten years from the day of the birth of the child, whichever first occurs.
In all cases, the action shall be instituted no later than one year from the day of the death of the child.

         The time periods in this Article are peremptive.[2] Acknowledging the passage of more than one year since the birth of the minor child, Dr. Fontenot[3] suggested that the "bad faith" exception was applicable to the matter due to his concerns for the safety of both Ms. Leger and the child if paternity was revealed. While the trial court permitted Dr. Fontenot's intervention, the trial court granted Mr. Leger's exception of peremption on the avowal action. That determination was affirmed in the initial appeal of this matter. Leger, 215 So.3d 773. However, the panel declined to rule on Dr. Fontenot's claim that La.Civ.Code art. 198 is unconstitutional as the claim was not previously raised in his pleadings, nor had the trial court ruled on any such claim. Id.

         Subsequently, and under the same docket number as the underlying matter, Dr. Fontenot filed a "Petition to Declare Louisiana Civil Code Article 198 Unconstitutional." He named Mr. and Ms. Leger, as well as the State of Louisiana, through the Attorney General, as defendants. Dr. Fontenot claimed therein that although he was the biological father of the minor child, he "was precluded from bringing an action to establish paternity pursuant to Civil Code article 198" as Ms. Leger advised him that she was abused by her husband and that if Dr. Fontenot "took action to establish paternity" that she "feared for her life." However, the trial court denied his prior claim that the "bad faith" exception to La.Civ.Code art. 198 "should be interpreted to include a mother's plea for the physical protection of herself and her child from a physically abusive husband." Dr. Fontenot asserted that, as a result, his ability to establish paternity "was precluded by the application of the one-year peremptive period contained within Louisiana Civil Code article 198."

         Referencing the "'fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children[, ]'" Dr. Fontenot alleged in his petition that "[t]he one-year peremptive period contained within Louisiana Civil Code article 198 is unconstitutionally short and an undue interference with [his] constitutionally protected rights as the parent" of the minor child. Citing Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 92 S.Ct. 1208 (1972).

         Furthermore, and by comparison, Dr. Fontenot explained in his petition that La.Civ.Code art. 193 "allows a mother to institute an action to disavow a presumed father and establish the paternity of the biological father as long as she institutes the action within two years of the date of the birth of the child." This disparity, he alleged, violated his rights of equal protection of both La.Const. art. 1, § 3, and U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Recognizing the attendant evaluations for such a complaint, Dr. Fontenot asserted that "[t]here can be no justification for granting an extra year for the mother of a child to bring an action to establish the paternity of the biological father than for the biological father himself." Therefore, he "pray[ed] that the one-year peremptive period contained in Louisiana Civil Code article 198 be declared unconstitutional, and that he be afforded the right to establish his paternity and legal custody" of the minor child.

         Following the filing of the petition, the trial court granted Dr. Fontenot's motion to voluntarily dismiss the State as a defendant. [4] The matter was submitted to the trial court on memoranda, with the State joining in Mr. Leger's memorandum to the trial court.[5] Thereafter, the trial court denied Dr. Fontenot's claim, "finding that Louisiana Civil Code Article 198 is constitutional."

         Dr. Fontenot appeals and, as his sole assignment of error, alleges that: "The trial court erred in holding Louisiana ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.