STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF A.L.D. AND. L.S.D.
Appealed from the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 157740 Honorable David Neil
TOMLIN WILSON Counsel for Defendant Appellant C.K.D.
E. HARP Counsel for Defendant Appellee N.M.L.
M. RAUSCH Counsel for Plaintiff Appellees A.L.D. and L.S.D.
KIMBERLY S. SMITH Counsel for Plaintiff Appellee State of
BROWN, GARRETT, and STEPHENS, JJ.
the father of the minor children ALD and LSD, appeals a
judgment of the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, Louisiana,
terminating his parental rights. For the following reasons,
we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand with
4, 2016, the minor child ALD was removed from the home of his
mother, NML. ALD's biological father is CKD, the
appellant in this appeal. Initially, it was alleged that NML
and CKD were using methamphetamine and other drugs, as well
as engaging in domestic abuse of each other. This behavior,
along with a chaotic lifestyle, made NML and CKD unable to
provide a safe and appropriate environment for the minor
child. Additionally, ALD, who was one year old at the time,
tested positive for methamphetamine during the course of the
31, 2016, the Department of Children and Family Services for
the State of Louisiana ("DCFS") filed its petition
in which it alleged that ALD was a child in need of care
("CINC"). On June 10, 2016, during the course of
these proceedings, NML gave birth to LSD, also CKD's
child. At the trial on July 13, 2016, the parents stipulated
that ALD was in need of care. The parents were drug-tested,
and both tested positive for methamphetamine. LSD, a
one-month-old infant, also tested positive for
methamphetamine. On August 23, 2016, DCFS filed its petition
regarding LSD, and that child was adjudicated a CINC.
developed a plan for rehabilitation of the parents, which was
approved by the trial court. The case plan called for CKD to
obtain safe and stable housing, complete random drug testing
and substance abuse treatment, obtain a legal source of
income, and successfully attend and complete parenting
classes and anger management. Notably, from the commencement
of the case, both NML and CKD had ongoing problems with
substance abuse. In fact, as late as November 2017, CKD
tested positive for cocaine and drug metabolites.
to maintain the children with family members, DCFS initially
placed the children with CKD's mother, DD. In May 2017,
DCFS received reports that CKD (and maybe NML) were also
living with DD, and that perhaps DD was using drugs while
caring for the children. NML, DD, and CKD were all
drug-tested, and CKD's test came back positive for
methamphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and marijuana.
DD's drug-test was positive for benzodiazepines, cocaine,
and marijuana. Unfortunately, both the children tested
positive for methamphetamines and cocaine at that time. As a
result, DCFS removed the children from DD's home and
placed them in foster care.
according to testimony at the trial, NML was incarcerated and
CKD's location became unknown to DCFS. The department
maintains that between May and November 2017, CKD was
noncompliant with his case plan: he made no contributions to
the children's care, stopped visiting them, and made no
effort for services. DCFS attempted to contact him at his
last known address, but the house appeared abandoned. His
family claimed not to know his whereabouts.
filed a petition to terminate both parents' parental
rights on October 9, 2017. NML filed a motion to grant
guardianship to her uncle, Dan Linnell, and the matters were
consolidated for a December 11, 2017, trial. During a two-day
trial, the trial court heard testimony and considered
evidence on both issues, and ultimately entered judgment
denying NML's motion and terminating both NML's and
CKD's parental rights. The trial court stated that CKD's
parental rights were terminated pursuant to La. Ch. C. art.
1015(6). CKD filed a timely motion for new trial, which was
denied. Only this appeal by CKD ensued-neither NML nor the
children appeal the judgment.
related assignments of error, CKD argues the trial court
erroneously determined that DCFS proved its case for
terminating his parental rights on the basis of La. Ch. C.
art. 1015(6) and in the best interest of the children.
Specifically, CKD argues that in order to successfully
terminate his parental rights under art. 1015(6), DCFS had to
prove three elements: (1) it had been one year since the
children had been removed; (2) there had not been substantial
compliance with the case plan for services; and, (3) there is
no reasonable expectation of significant improvement in his
condition or conduct in the near future. CKD concedes one
year has elapsed since the children were removed from his
custody; however, he argues that he has complied with several
aspects of his case plan, which in the totality of
circumstances, amounts to "substantial parental
compliance" on his part. He also argues that DCFS failed
to prove he lacked a reasonable expectation of significant
improvement. He also maintains that DCFS failed to prove that
termination of his parental rights was in the children's
best interest. Considering the particular facts of this case,
termination of parental rights is warranted is a question of
fact, and a trial court's determinations will not be set
aside in the absence of manifest error. State in Interest
of T.P., 51, 172 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/16/16), 209 So.3d
1015; State in Interest of C.V.W., 48, 166 (La.App.
2 Cir. 4/10/13), 113 So.3d 1202.
terminate parental rights, the state must meet the onerous
burden of proving one of the statutory grounds for
termination set forth in La. Ch. C. art. 1015 by clear and
convincing evidence. Here, the pertinent factor ...