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Craig v. Bishop

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 9, 2019



          Hillary L. Nixon Law Office of Hillary L. Nixon, LLC Counsel for Defendant/Appellant: Shari Renee Bishop

          David M. Hudson Larry A. Roach, Inc. Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee: David Michael Craig

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.


         Defendant appeals the trial court's judgment granting Plaintiff sole custody of the parties' minor child and supervised visitation for Defendant. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.


         Defendant, Shari Renee Bishop, married Jerry Cummings on November 10, 1996, and together they produced four children: Israel Cummings, born September 10, 1997; Benjamin Cummings, born June 13, 2000; Eliana Cummings, born February 5, 2004; and Seven Cummings, born May 11, 2007. Those children are no longer in Shari's custody. While still married to Jerry, Shari met David Michael Craig, Plaintiff herein, in 2010. Shari and David began living together, and she became pregnant with his child. Their son, Dexter Craig, was born on November 7, 2011. Shari and Jerry divorced in 2013, and she married David on July 4, 2015, when Dexter was approximately three years old. Shari, David, and Dexter lived together in Calcasieu Parish.

         On September 13, 2017, David filed a Petition for Divorce pursuant to La.Civ.Code art. 102, Petition for Ex Parte Child Custody and Civil Warrant, and Petition for Child Custody and Child Support. He alleged Shari suffered from mental health issues including irrational and delusional beliefs that she and her children are being stalked and attacked by "sex offenders, devil worshipers, evil clowns, juggalos, [1] demons, and ghosts." The trial court signed an Ex Parte Custody Order on September 17, 2017 and granted David's request for sole custody. Shari was granted supervised visitation "every other weekend for 2 hours at the Whistle Stop"[2] at her costs. David was given the exclusive use of their home and two vehicles. The trial court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Shari from hiding Dexter or removing him from Calcasieu Parish. Those issues were scheduled for a hearing on October 30, 2017.

         On September 28, 2017, Shari filed an Answer to Petition for Divorce and Reconventional Demand. Therein, she requested a divorce pursuant to La.Civ.Code art. 102. Shari alleged that her former husband, Jerry, had filed a petition to disavow Dexter's paternity. According to her, the record was void of a written judgment of disavowal such that it was unknown whether David's paternity of Dexter had been legally established. Shari alleged that David was mentally unstable with a violent criminal history. She requested that Dexter be returned to her or, alternatively, overnight weekend visitation with him at her parents' home and under their supervision. Shari wanted the ex parte order set aside and requested joint custody with her being designated as the domiciliary parent. The trial court issued an Order on October 4, 2017, denying Shari's request to set aside the ex parte order and her request for overnight visitation.

         At the hearing on October 30, 2017, an Order for Mental Health Assistance was issued by stipulation of the parties for a psychiatric evaluation of Shari to be performed by Dr. James Anderson. On that same date, the parties stipulated that Shari's interim visitation would be expanded with her parents, Rhonda Bishop and Ronnie Bishop, designated as supervisors. [3] The parties agreed that if those supervisors were unavailable, visitation would occur at the Whistle Stop. The foregoing was reduced to writing in a Stipulated Judgment filed on November 20, 2017. Prior to that judgment, a Supervised Visitation Order and Acceptance was signed by each supervisor and issued by the trial court for each supervisor. Additionally, a hearing occurred on November 6, 2017, after which a Consent Judgment was issued regarding child support, medical expenses, taxes, and court costs.

         On January 5, 2018, Shari filed an Ex Parte Request for Custody Affidavit of Petitioner and alleged that David was abusing Dexter and threatened to kill him. Her ex parte request was denied by the trial court that same day. The remaining issue of whether David should undergo a psychological evaluation was ordered by the trial court to be determined at the upcoming trial. On January 8, 2018, David filed a Motion to Suspend Supervised Visitations Outside of Whistle Stop because of Shari's alleged violation of the pending custody order and temporary restraining order. According to David, Shari and Ronnie removed Dexter from Calcasieu Parish on December 23, 2017 and went to Texas where they secreted him from David. David, with the help of law enforcement, regained custody on December 25, 2017. David sought to remove Ronnie as the visitation supervisor and have all visitation between Shari and Dexter occur at the Whistle Stop. On January 10, 2018, David filed a First Supplemental and Amending Petition naming Jerry as a defendant in his capacity as Dexter's "presumed legal father." On February 22, 2018, David filed a Rule for Contempt against Shari and Ronnie based upon the Christmas incident.

         Trial began on February 26, 2018. At issue was David and Shari's request for custody of Dexter, Shari's request for a psychological evaluation of David, and David's request to modify visitation and his contempt rule against Shari and Ronnie. Trial continued on March 14 and 19 and concluded on April 24, 2018, after which the trial court took the matter under advisement. After considering the evidence and the testimony presented at trial, a written judgment along with detailed and thorough written reasons for judgment were rendered on July 13, 2018. The trial court awarded David sole custody of Dexter with Shari given supervised visitation at the Whistle Stop. It found Shari and Ronnie in contempt and sentenced them to ninety days in jail with said sentences suspended if they complied with all future court orders. Finally, the trial court assessed Shari with all costs of the proceedings. The foregoing judgment was appealed by Shari.

         On appeal, Shari contends that:

I. The trial court erred in finding that the record established by clear and convincing evidence that sole custody to David was in the best interest of Dexter.
II. The trial court abused its discretion in finding that the testimony of Israel, Ben, and Eliana Cummings provided good insight into Shari's abilities and dispositions to parent based on her history of parenting and in relying on their testimony to determine the best interest of Dexter.
III. The trial court erred in finding that Louisiana Civil Code art. 134 factors (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), and (10) weigh in favor of David.

         STANDARD ...

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