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In re C.L.A.C. Applying for Intrafamily Adoption of W.K.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

October 24, 2018

IN RE C.L.A.C. APPLYING FOR THE INTRAFAMILY ADOPTION OF W.K.C, K.P.C., AND AJ.C.

          Appealed from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Livingston State of Louisiana Suit Number 155306 Honorable Jeffery T. Oglesbee, Presiding

          Jenel G. Secrease Jay M. Futrell Hammond, LA and Sonja Castella Bradley Livingston, LA Counsel for Defendant/Appellant C.D.J.

          Wyman E. Bankston Livingston, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee C. L.A.C.

          Allen Harvey Livingston, LA Counsel for minor children W.K.C., K.P. C.,, and A.J.C.

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.

          GUIDRY, J.

         C.D. J., the biological mother of the minor children, appeals from a judgment of the district court terminating her parental rights and granting the stepmother's petition for intrafamily adoption of the minor children. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         D.G.C. and C.DJ. were never married; however, they lived together for approximately 14 years and had three children, W.K.C., K.P.C., and A.J.C. Following their separation, D.G.C. and C.D.J, were awarded joint custody of the minor children pursuant to an April 2014 judgment, with D.G.C. designated as the domiciliary parent. According to the judgment, C.D.J.'s custodial periods with the children were to be every other weekend and every Wednesday evening through Thursday morning. The last time C.D.J, exercised her custodial periods with the children was August 2014.

         Thereafter, on November 14, 2015, D.G.C. married C.L.A.C. Following the filing by C.D.J, of a motion to enforce custody judgment on March 16, 2017, C.L.A.C, joined by D.G.C, filed a petition for intrafamily adoption on April 24, 2017. C.L.A.C asserted that the consent of CD.J. is not required pursuant to La. Ch. C art. 1245(C)(2) because CD.J. has refused and/or failed to visit, communicate, or attempt to communicate with the minor children without just cause for a period of at least six continuous months since the custody judgment was rendered in April 2014. C.L.A.C. further asserted that it was in the best interest of the children that they be adopted by her.

         C.D.J. answered the petition on May 8, 2017, generally denying the allegations in the petition and stating that she opposed the adoption of her children. C.D.J, also asserted that she has attempted to contact the children, and that adoption of the children by C.L.A.C is not in their best interest. An attorney who was appointed by the district court to represent the interests of the minor children also filed a statement into the record.

         The matter proceeded to trial on September 12, 2017, wherein the parties presented testimony and introduced evidence. At the conclusion of trial, the district court stated that he "[did] not find [C.D.J.'s] failure to visit with the children was with Oust] cause for a period exceeding six months." The district court found that C.D.J, had opportunities to visit the children but for whatever reason chose not to exercise those opportunities. Accordingly, the district court found that C.D.J.'s consent was not required and that it was in the best interest of the children that her parental rights be terminated. The district court further found, based upon the factors in La. C.C. art. 134 and considering the evidence and testimony submitted, that it is in best interest of the children that the petition for intrafamily adoption be approved.

         The district court signed a final decree in conformity with its oral ruling on September 12, 2017. C.D.J, now appeals from the district court's judgment, asserting that: (1) the district court did not have jurisdiction over this matter; (2) the district court incorrectly applied La. Ch. C. art. 1245(C)(2); (3) the district court erred in finding that her consent to the intrafamily adoption was not needed; and (4) the district court erred in finding that the adoption was in the best interest of the children.

         DISCUSSION

         Jurisdiction

         Louisiana Revised Statutes 13:621.21 abolished Division G and Division H of the Twenty-First Judicial District Court effective midnight, December 31, 2014, and provided for the creation of two new judgeships in their place, Division J and Division K, respectively, effective January 1, 2015. La. R.S. 13:621.21(B)-(C). The subject matter jurisdiction of Division J and Division K is limited to family and juvenile matters, which include ...


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