STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF C. C., JR., P. B., M. B. AND J. B. IN RE J. M. AND R. M.
Applying For Supervisory Writ From The Jefferson Parish
Juvenile Court, Parish Of Jefferson, State Of Louisiana,
Directed To The Honorable Barron C. Burmaster, Division
''C'', Number 16-CC-85
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G.
Gravois, and John J. Molaison, Jr.
GRANTED; JUDGMENT VACATED; REMANDED
ongoing Child in Need of Care ("CINC") proceeding
for the minor child, J.B.,  relators, J.B.'s foster
parents, filed exceptions to challenge J.B.'s alleged
father, D.W.'s, motion to modify the disposition,
requesting custody of J.B. Relators seek review of the trial
court's December 11, 2018 denial of their
"Exceptions of Lack of Procedural Capacity/Standing and
No Right of Action," which were filed in response to
D.W.'s motion. For the following reasons, relators'
writ is granted, and the trial court's ruling denying
relators' exceptions is vacated.
Court's Prior Opinion
prior appeal of this matter, this Court determined that the
record lacked any evidence regarding D.W.'s biological
connection to J.B. Our opinion noted that "a biological
father has two options to establish his paternity of a child
not filiated to another man: one is to acknowledge the child
in an authentic act and the second is to file filiation
proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction. La. C.C.
art. 196; La. C.C. art. 198; La. R.S. 9:408." We further
acknowledged that the statutory law requires a putative
father to file an action to establish filiation, rather than
allowing DNA test results alone to establish filiation.
State in the Interest of C.C., J.R., P.B., M.B.,
J.B., 18-440 (La.App. 5 Cir. 10/12/18), ___ So.3d ___,
writ denied, 18-1766 (La. 12/3/18), ___ So.3d ___.
History Following Appeal
limited application before us contains an undated and
unsigned Motion To Modify Disposition, purportedly filed by
D.W. In the motion, D.W. asserts that he was
"named" as J.B.'s father and that DNA testing
"confirmed" his paternity of J.B. As noted above,
this Court opined in the prior appeal of this case that these
two factors, without more, were not sufficient to legally
establish a biological connection to J.B. Essentially, both
exceptions filed by relators in response to D.W.'s motion
rely on the same premise: that D.W. has not conclusively
demonstrated that he is J.B.'s father.
Adduced At The Hearing
minute entry regarding the hearing on D.W.'s motion, held
December 11, 2018, indicates that a copy of a Louisiana vital
records registry acknowledgement of paternity for the
putative father registry, executed by D.W., was accepted by
the court into evidence. The minute entry from that date
further states, "COURT FINDS [D.W.] TO BE THE BIOLOGICAL
FATHER OF [J.B.] AND HE HAS DONE EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO
ESTABLISH HIS PARENTAL RIGHTS." Relators' counsel
represents to this Court that the actual vital records
registry acknowledgement of paternity was not entered into
evidence at the hearing, but instead, counsel for D.W. showed
a photograph of the acknowledgement to the trial
court. Relators' counsel further represents
to this Court that it is unknown whether the actual
acknowledgement was ever presented to the trial court
following the hearing. While counsel for D.W. asserts in her
brief that, "The act of acknowledgment was submitted to
Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court and filed in the record on
December 13, 2018." This occurred two days after the
hearing on relators' exceptions took place and was ruled
copy of the vital records registry acknowledgement contained
in the writ application is mostly illegible. The
witnesses' signatures are obscured, as is the identifying
information of the notary public. Because the trial court
apparently based its ruling upon this image of the original
document, and our review necessitates a preliminary
verification that the acknowledgement is in authentic form,
the condition of this exhibit precludes us from conducting a
full consideration of the issues raised in relators'
application. To the extent that the trial court may have
relied on the exact same image before us, with the same
defects, to deny relators' exceptions, we find reversible
error based upon insufficient evidence.
assuming that a legible copy of the registry acknowledgement
was properly introduced into evidence and considered by the
trial court, we find that the court erred in denying
relator's exceptions on the basis of the document alone.
As correctly noted by relators, while an acknowledgement of
paternity for the putative father registry can be used as
evidence, La. R.S. 9:400(C) limits that use to anyone
"other than the person who filed such notice."
Accordingly, because the acknowledgement was executed
specifically for the purposes of the Louisiana vital records
registry, we find that La. R.S. 9:400(C) applies to preclude
D.W. from using it as evidence of paternity in this matter.
Question Of Paternity
matter of well settled legal principle, this Court may not
provide advisory opinions. However, the sum total of our rulings,
including the applicable ...