LESLIE N. BECKMAN AND BRUCE M. BECKMAN Plaintiffs-Appellees
TARA RHEANNON COON DEVILLIER AND ERIC DAVID DEVILLIER Defendants-Appellants
Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 589884 Honorable
Roy L. Brun, Judge
& HUCKABAY, LTD (A.P.L.C.) By: Charles H. Kammer, III
Counsel for Appellant, Tara Rheannon Coon Devillier
DAVID DEVILLIER In Proper Person
WILLIAM HENDRIX Counsel for Appellees, Leslie N. and Bruce M.
MOORE, STONE, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.
BLEICH, J. (Pro Tempore), concurs in part and dissents in
part with written reasons.
custody dispute, appellant, Tara Rheannon Coon Devillier,
seeks the reversal of the trial court judgment that granted
sole custody of her two children to the maternal
grandparents, appellees, Leslie N. Beckman and Bruce M.
Beckman, and found her in contempt of court for failure to
pay child support and for violating a court order which
prohibited the presence of members of the opposite sex during
her exercise of visitation.
following reasons, we affirm that portion of the trial court
judgment that awards sole custody of the two children to the
appellees, and finds the appellant in contempt for allowing a
member of the opposite sex to be present during her exercise
of visitation. We reverse that portion of the trial court
judgment which found the appellant in contempt for failure to
pay child support.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
appeal arises from litigation initiated by the maternal
grandparents, Leslie N. Beckman ("Leslie") and
Bruce M. Beckman ("Bruce") (collectively referred
to as the "Beckmans"), seeking custody of their
maternal grandchildren, A.C.D. and A.G.D. Tara Rheannon Coon
Devillier ("Rheannon") and Eric David Devillier
("Eric") (collectively known as the
"Devilliers") are the natural parents of A.C.D. and
December 21, 2015, Leslie filed a petition for protection
from abuse in the Juvenile Court of Caddo Parish wherein she
alleged a myriad of concerns regarding the care of A.C.D. and
A.G.D. In her petition, Leslie alleged that both parents of
the minor children were using illegal drugs, including
medications prescribed to the children; that the utilities in
the home were no longer in service; that the mother failed to
comply with the medical care for her developmentally delayed
child; that the home contained black mold and feces; that
Eric possessed an explosive temper which scared one of the
children; and that both parents have tested positive for
work-related drug screenings. On December 23, 2015, an order
of protection was rendered in the proceedings, granting
Leslie temporary custody of A.C.D and A.G.D. through January
January 7, 2016, the Beckmans and the Devilliers filed a
joint motion to establish child custody by consent of the
parties in which all parties agreed to grant custody of
A.C.D. and A.G.D. to the Beckmans. On January 14, 2016,
judgment on the joint motion was rendered which, inter
alia, granted custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D. to the
Beckmans; required the Devilliers to submit to random drug
screenings at the request of the Beckmans; granted supervised
visitation to the Devilliers until they have tested negative
for all nonprescription drugs; ordered substance abuse
treatment for the Devilliers; required the Devilliers to
deposit $440 per month in an account established by the
Beckmans for child support; and stipulated that this matter
may be reviewed by any party after January 1, 2017.
January 10, 2017, Rheannon filed a rule for custody seeking
the reinstatement of her parental rights, as well as sole
custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D. Subsequently, on March 14, 2017,
the Beckmans also filed a rule for custody where they alleged
the extensive medical needs of the minor children; the
Devilliers' failure to provide proper medical care;
A.C.D.'s controlled, schedule II stimulant medication
unaccounted for after visitation with Rheannon; the unkempt
condition of Rheannon's home; and the child support
arrears in the amount of $2, 398.47.
hearing on May 30, 2017, an interim order was issued allowing
the Beckmans to maintain sole custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D.
and awarding Rheannon visitation every other weekend.
Additionally, the interim order held Rheannon in contempt of
court for failure to pay child support and ordered her to pay
$421.21 per week in an attempt to purge the arrears;
prohibited the presence of any boyfriends during
Rheannon's visitation with A.C.D. and A.G.D.; required
Rheannon to submit to random drug screenings upon demand by
the Beckmans; required the Beckmans to provide school and
medical information to Rheannon; and provided that this
matter may be reviewed in four months.
October 10, 2017, four months after the interim order was
issued, Rheannon filed a motion and order to set rule date
seeking a review of the interim order, alleging that she has
successfully complied with the requirements set forth by the
judgment and the Beckmans. After a hearing on November 9,
2017, the trial court issued an interim order which increased
visitation to Wednesday after school until Friday morning
before school in addition to every other weekend.
the interim order prohibited the presence of any boyfriends
or members of the opposite sex, not related by blood or
marriage, during Rheannon's visitation with A.C.D. and
A.G.D.; provided the terms of visitation on holidays and
during summer months; and allowed the Beckmans the right of
first refusal to babysit while A.C.D. and A.G.D. are in
Rheannon's custody in the event a babysitter is needed
for a period of two hours or greater.
January 8, 2018, the trial court issued an immediate income
assignment order for child support directing Rheannon's
employer to withhold $1, 608.58 a month and a past due amount
of $5, 980.88 through weekly payments of
$421.21. On April 30, 2018, the Beckmans filed a
rule for sole custody, to modify visitation, to reset all of
plaintiff's motions, and for contempt ("Rule for
Sole Custody") seeking sole custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D.
and to modify the terms of visitation with Rheannon. In the
rule for sole custody, the Beckmans alleged that the minor
children were experiencing significant behavioral, medical,
and emotional problems as a result of the increase in
trial took place on June 6, 2018, where testimony was heard
by the court. Rheannon offered her own testimony; as well as
the testimony of her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Gina
Jenkins; licensed professional counselor, Dr. Mickey Jones;
and longtime friend, Rebecca Harper. Similarly, the Beckmans
offered the testimony of Leslie and Dr. Mickey Jones. At the
conclusion of the trial, the trial court rendered judgment
awarding the Beckmans sole custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D., and
awarding Rheannon visitation every other weekend.
addition, the judgment set forth the terms of visitation
during the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, and spring
and summer breaks; found Rheannon in contempt of court for
failure to pay child support in arrears of $1, 608.58 and for
allowing the presence of Kenneth Jenkins during
Rheannon's exercise of visitation with the children; and
prohibited any means of communication with Kenneth Jenkins.
This appeal ensued.
appeal, Rheannon cites several assignments of error regarding
the trial court's custody award; however, we find that,
fundamentally, the substance of each assignment of error is
dependent upon whether the trial court erred in awarding sole
custody of the children to the Beckmans. After a careful
review of the record, we cannot conclude that the trial court
abused its discretion in awarding sole custody of A.C.D. and
A.G.D. to the Beckmans.
trial court is in the best position to ascertain the best
interest of the child given each unique set of circumstances.
Galjour v. Harris, 2000-2696 (La.App. 1 Cir.
3/28/01), 795 So.2d 350, 354, writ denied, 2001-1238
(La. 6/1/01), 793 So.2d 1229, writ denied, 2001-1273
(La. 6/1/01), 793 So.2d 1230. The determination of the trial
judge in child custody matters is entitled to great weight,
and his or her discretion will not be disturbed on review in
the absence of a clear showing of abuse. See Leard v.
Schenker, 2006-1116 (La. 6/16/06), 931 So.2d 355,
quoting AEB v. JBE, 99-2668 (La. 11/30/99), 752
parent has the paramount right to the custody of her child
and may be deprived of that custody only when there are
compelling reasons. Wood v. Beard, 290 So.2d 675
(La. 1974). In Tracie F. v. Francisco D., 2015-1812
(La. 3/15/16), 188 So.3d 231, the Louisiana Supreme Court set
forth the standard and burden of proof when a biological
parent seeks greater custodial rights and seeks to modify a
stipulated custody award, stating:
[W]e hold that the overarching inquiry in an action to change
custody is "the best interest of the child."
Moreover, consistent with our prior jurisprudence regarding
stipulated custody awards, we further hold that a biological
parent with joint custody, who seeks modification of a
stipulated custody award to obtain greater custodial rights,
must prove: (1) there has been a material change in
circumstances after the original custody award; and (2) the
proposed modification is in the best interest of the child.
See also Evans v. Lungrin, 97-0541 (La. 2/6/98), 708
So.2d 731; Bergeron v. Bergeron, 492 So.2d 1193 (La.
case, the initial custody award was a stipulated judgment in
which Rheannon voluntarily consented to the Beckmans having
custody of A.C.D. and A.G.D. With this in mind, once Rheannon
sought to modify the prior stipulated judgment, at trial, she
had the burden of proving that (1) there has been a material
change in circumstances after the original custody award; and
(2) the proposed modification is in the best interest of the
first consider the best interest of A.C.D. and A.G.D., as
this is the overarching inquiry and paramount consideration
of this appeal. The best interest of the child is the guiding
principle in all custody determinations. The factors set
forth in La. Civ. Code art. 134 for determining the best
interest of the child "should be followed in actions to
change custody, as well as in those to fix it
initially." Tracie F. v. Francisco D.,
2015-1812 (La. 3/15/16), 188 So.3d 231; see also La.
C. C. arts. 131, 134; Mills v. Wilkerson, 34, 694
(La.App. 2 Cir. 3/26/01), 785 So.2d 69; Street v.
May, 35, 589 (La.App. 2 Cir. 12/5/01), 803 So.2d 312.
listed in La. C. C. art. 134, the factors for ascertaining
the best interest are as follows:
court shall consider all relevant factors in determining the
best interest of the child, including:
(1) The potential for the child to be abused, as defined by
Children's Code Article 603,  which shall be the primary
(2) The love, affection, and other emotional ties between
each party and the child.
(3) The capacity and disposition of each party to give the
child love, affection, and spiritual guidance and to continue
the education and rearing of the child.
(4) The capacity and disposition of each party to provide the
child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material
(5) The length of time the child has lived in a stable,
adequate environment, and the desirability of maintaining
continuity of that environment.
(6) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or
proposed custodial home or homes.
(7) The moral fitness of each party, insofar as it affects