IN RE: J. L. C. K., WIFE OF/AND J. D. K., JR. APPLYING FOR PRIVATE ADOPTION OF CHILD UNDER SEVENTEEN YEARS OF AGE KNOWN AS "B. A. B., JR."
APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT PARISH OF
JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-AD-15, DIVISION
"B" HONORABLE JEROME J. BARBERA, III, JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, J. L. C. K. AND J. D. K.,
JR., Albert F. Widmer, Jr.Courtney L. Schroeder
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, B. A. B., Lakeisha N.
Jefferson, N. Kim Nguyen
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Marc E. Johnson, and
Robert A. Chaisson
M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE
an appeal from a judgment of the Juvenile Court, Parish of
Jefferson, terminating a natural father's parental
rights. For the following reasons, we affirm.
and Procedural History
record reflects that S.R.B. became pregnant in 2015 while she
and B.A.B., Sr. were cohabitating in an apartment that she
leased. When B.A.B., Sr. purchased a house in August of 2015,
the couple moved into the house together, where B.A.B., Sr.
paid the household expenses, except for food. S.R.B.
testified that, as an unemployed single mother, she was
eligible for food stamps and "WIC, " which she used
to feed the household.
October 16, 2015, B.A.B., Jr. (hereinafter "the
child") was born out of wedlock to S.R.B. and B.A.B.,
Sr., who executed an acknowledgement of paternity and is
named on the child's birth certificate. Although B.A.B.,
Sr. was gainfully employed and covered by his employer's
health insurance, the costs of the child's birth were
paid by Medicaid.
the child was born, S.R.B. and the child remained living in
B.A.B., Sr.'s house for two months. However, after an
argument in late December of 2015, S.R.B. took the child to
stay with friends until roughly March 2016. B.A.B., Sr. did
not contribute money for the child's expenses, i.e.,
clothing, diapers, or formula, while the child was not in
B.A.B., Sr.'s house.
early March of 2016, S.R.B. and the child returned to B.A.B.,
Sr.'s house. At that time, the child was also added to
B.A.B., Sr.'s health insurance, at no additional cost to
B.A.B., Sr. During that time, S.R.B. continued to use her
food stamps and W.I.C. vouchers to purchase groceries for the
house. For several months, the couple maintained a
4, 2016, however, after a party at their house, B.A.B., Sr.,
who admitted to consuming about 5 or 6 beers, struck S.R.B.
in the face and "broke" her nose. After B.A.B.,
Sr.'s arrest in the early morning hours of July 5, 2016,
S.R.B.'s cousin picked up S.R.B. and the child and
brought them to her home. Within days, the child returned to
stay with the same family friends that he had lived with
earlier in the year.
S.R.B. returned to B.A.B., Sr.'s house in October of
2016, she did not bring the child. In fact, the child only
returned to B.A.B., Sr.'s house to stay for one week in
March of 2017. During that visit, B.A.B., Sr. had an episode
of extreme alcohol intake and belligerence, which triggered
S.R.B. to leave the house and remove the child. Further, that
event caused S.R.B. to realize that she would not be able to
raise the child alone and would not be able to count on
B.A.B., Sr. as a parent so, on March 30, 2017, S.R.B.
voluntarily surrendered her rights to the child to allow the
child to be privately adopted by the family friends who had
been keeping the child.
record is clear that B.A.B., Sr. did not send a gift for the
child's first birthday or Christmas of 2016. Further,
B.A.B., Sr. did not present evidence that he had offered to
contribute money for the child's expenses from July 2016
until March 2017.
importantly, B.A.B., Sr. admitted that he did not really know
where the child was living from July 2016 until April of
2017, even while S.R.B. was living with B.A.B., Sr. at his
house. He stated that he "trusted" the woman that
he loved and thought that the child was living with
S.R.B.'s cousin or friends. Except for a single text
message, there is no evidence that he made any attempt to
locate the child until April of 2017.
about April 12, 2017, however, B.A.B., Sr. learned that
S.R.B. had surrendered her rights to the child and that
another family sought to adopt the child. On April 21,
2017, B.A.B., Sr. filed an opposition to the adoption
pursuant to La. Ch.C. art. 1137, which triggered the
opposition hearing. After a two-day hearing, the juvenile
court found that B.A.B., Sr. failed to prove that he had made
a substantial commitment to his parental responsibilities and
that he is a fit parent. At that hearing, the court
terminated B.A.B., Sr.'s parental rights and declared the
child available for adoption. This appeal follows.
brief to this court, B.A.B., Sr. assigns three errors: first,
the trial court erred in finding that the biological father
failed to carry his burden of proof to establish by a
preponderance of evidence that he manifested a substantial
commitment to his parental responsibilities and that he was a
fit parent to the minor child; second, the trial court erred
in finding that the biological father was not thwarted in his
efforts to manifest a parental commitment by the biological
mother and/or her agents; and third, the trial court erred in
remaining in the courtroom when a proffer was made.
well settled that an appellate court cannot set aside a
juvenile court's findings of fact in the absence of
manifest error or unless those findings are clearly wrong.
In re A.J.F., 00-0948 (La. 6/30/00), 764 So.2d 47,
61; In re Adoption of A.P.C., 00-1381 (La.App. 5
Cir. 12/13/00), 776 So.2d 567, 573, writ denied,
01-0319 (La. 2/14/01), 785 So.2d 835. "Where there is
conflicting testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility
and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed
upon review, even when the appellate court may feel that its
own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable as those of
the trial court." In re A.J.F., supra; Rosell v.
ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989); Arceneaux v.
Domingue, 365 So.2d 1330 (La. 1978). Where the fact
finder is presented with two permissible views of the
evidence, the fact finder's choice between them is not
clearly wrong. Id. Substantial commitment and
parental fitness are factual findings that are entitled to
deference unless the trial court is clearly wrong. In re
Adoption of J.L.G., 01-0269 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/21/01),
808 So.2d 491.
manifest error review, it is important that the appellate
court not substitute its opinion when it is the juvenile
court who is in the unique position to see and hear the
witnesses as they testify. The trier of fact is not
disadvantaged by the review of a cold record and is in a
superior position to observe the nuances of demeanor evidence
not revealed in a record. In re A.J.F., 764 So.2d at