IN RE: L. D. B., APPLYING FOR INTRA FAMILY ADOPTION OF E. B.
APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT PARISH OF
JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17-AD-11, DIVISION
"B" HONORABLE ANDREA PRICE JANZEN, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, L. D. B. Joaquin Shepherd
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, K. L. Nisha Sandhu
composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Hans J. Liljeberg, and
John J. Molaison, Jr.
J. MOLAISON, JR. JUDGE
intrafamily adoption case, the biological mother, K.L.,
appeals the judgment of the juvenile court which found that
her consent was not required for the adoption of E.B. by the
child's stepmother, terminated K.L.'s parental
rights, and granted the petition for intrafamily adoption.
For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
matter comes before us for the second time, after we
dismissed appellant's first appeal for lack of
jurisdiction. In re L. D. B., 17-373 (La.App. 5 Cir.
10/04/17), 228 So.3d 296. In K.L.'s prior appeal, we
detailed the relevant underlying facts and procedural history
of the proceedings as follows:
Appellant, K.L., and C.B., who were never married, had a
child, E.B., together on July 1, 2005. The parties parted
ways in 2009, when E.B. was four years old. From 2009 until
2014, the parties shared joint custody of E.B., with K.L. as
the domiciliary parent and C.B. having visitation every other
weekend and holidays. In 2014, after an apparent contentious
custody battle, C.B. became the domiciliary parent and K.L.
After separating from K.L., C.B. married L.B. in September
2009. On February 24, 2017, L.B. and C.B. filed a petition
for intrafamily adoption in Juvenile Court for the Parish of
Jefferson, wherein L.B. sought to adopt E.B. The parties
alleged that E.B.'s biological mother, K.L., who had not
consented to the adoption and whose parental rights had not
been terminated, had failed to visit or attempt to
communicate with E.B. for a period of ten months and had
failed to pay court ordered child support for more than one
year. As such, the parties asserted that K.L.'s consent
was not required for the adoption. The parties further
averred it was in E.B.'s best interest that she be
adopted by L.B.
K.L. filed an opposition to the petition for intrafamily
adoption, claiming that C.B. and L.B. had denied her contact
with E.B. despite her repeated attempts since August 2015.
K.L. admitted that she had been in arrears for her child
support obligation, but asserted that she had made payments
and continues to make efforts to reduce her arrearages and
meet her obligation. K.L. alleged the petition for adoption
was an abuse of process in the ongoing custody dispute in the
24th Judicial District Court ("24th JDC").
The juvenile court conducted a hearing on the opposition to
the adoption on May 8, 2017. At the hearing, C.B. and L.B.
testified in support of their petition and introduced
evidence consisting of various emails between C.B. and K.L.;
a visitation calendar kept by C.B.; documentation regarding
K.L.'s child support obligation and arrears; a police
report showing a child custody disturbance on February 10,
2017 at which time K.L. was arrested on an outstanding
attachment; a Valentine's Day card and Mother's Day
card given to L.B. by E.B.; and a letter from E.B.'s
court appointed attorney indicating that K.L. was not
agreeable to meet to discuss school holiday visitation.
Additionally, the court examined E.B. in chambers in the
presence of counsel.
To oppose the petition, K.L. offered her own testimony along
with the testimony of her mother, a friend, L.B.'s
brother and sister-in-law, and L.B.'s ex-husband. K.L.
also introduced into evidence more emails between herself and
C.B., photographs showing her house and E.B.'s room at
her house, as well as photographs of E.B. with K.L. and
family, and a letter from Kerry Nesbit with Behavioral Health
Solutions of Louisiana indicating that K.L. had been
diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major
depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder and
had been treating at the clinic since August 6, 2016.
The juvenile court rendered judgment at the conclusion of the
hearing, which was reduced to writing the same day, denying
K.L.'s opposition to the petition for intrafamily
adoption, specifically finding that C.B. and L.B. proved by
clear and convincing evidence that K.L. had failed to support
and visit her child for a period in excess of six months and
that her consent was not required for the adoption to
proceed. In explaining its ruling, the court stated that it
had reviewed the 24th JDC child custody record, noting that
it was "two large volumes and a third not-so-large
volume." The court extensively referred to an evaluation
that was conducted in September 2013 in the child custody
case in which E.B.'s therapist reported certain concerns.
In ruling from the bench, the court explicitly stated that it
was in E.B.'s best interest for the adoption to go
forward; however, the court did not render a final decree
granting or denying the petition for adoption. Instead, the
It is my policy to wait the time limit to see if this
decision will be appealed before I actually go forward with
the final degree [sic] of adoption, and I am going to do that
in this case. I will set a tentative date for the adoption
hearings in approximately 30 days.
Thereafter, K.L. filed a motion for a suspensive appeal from
the May 8, 2017 judgment "decreeing the adoption of
E.J.B. in favor of [L.B.]," which the juvenile court
Id. at 297-298.
record shows that, subsequent to this Court's dismissal
of the first appeal, the parties appeared in juvenile court
on December 4, 2017, for a hearing on L.B.'s petition for
intrafamily adoption, which the judge granted on that same
date. On December 14, 2017, the court issued a final written
judgment which legally recognized L.B. as the adoptive mother
of E.B. and formally terminated K.L.'s parental rights.
K.L. thereafter timely filed a motion for appeal, which was
two assignments of error, K.L. argues summarily that the
trial court erred in granting E.B.'s adoption upon
finding that K.L.'s parental consent was not necessary.
respect to the issue of parental consent, K.L. specifically
asserts that the trial court erred in holding that a time
period lasting over six-months, during which K.L. did not
visit E.B. or provide financial support, was not justified by
K.L.'s "severe mental condition." The
significance of the time period pertains to La. Ch.C.art.
1245, which addresses the requirement of parental consent for
intrafamily adoptions. That article provides, in part:
A. The consent of the parent as required by Article 1193 may
be dispensed with upon proof by clear and convincing evidence
of the required elements of either Paragraph B or C of this
Article at the hearing on the opposition and petition.
C. When the spouse of a stepparent petitioner has been
granted sole or joint custody of the child by a court of
competent jurisdiction or is otherwise exercising lawful
custody of the child and ...