Appeal from the 32nd Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish "of Terrebonne State of Louisiana Trial Court
Number 143, 450 Honorable Randall L. Bethancourt, Judge
Ogden Middleton, II Alexandria, Louisiana Attorney for
Plaintiff/Appellant, Alyson Mary Babcock
Gregory J. Schwab Houma, Louisiana Attorney for
Defendant/Appellee, Charles David Martin
C. Brown Houma, Louisiana Attorney for A.G.B.
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, PENZATO, AND LANIER, JJ.
Alyson Mary Babcock, appeals a judgment denying her rule to
modify custody. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
instant appeal is part of an ongoing child custody dispute
with a longstanding factual and procedural
background. Ms. Babcock and Charles David Martin were
never married, but had one child together, A.G.B.,
born on September 20, 2004. Pursuant to a consent judgment
dated October 3, 2005, the parties were granted joint custody
of A.G.B., with Ms. Babcock designated as the domiciliary
parent. On December 8, 2005, Mr. Martin filed a rule seeking
sole custody of A.G.B., alleging that Ms. Babcock incorrectly
gave A.G.B. medications, exaggerated A.G.B.'s medical
problems to a point where harm was caused to the child, and
deceived Mr. Martin and the court as to A.G.B.'s medical
condition. The matter came before the court on several
occasions, and ultimately on April 10, 2008, the parties
agreed and consented to enter into mental health counseling
utilizing Jeanne Robertson, Ph.D, LPC.
initial meeting with Ms. Babcock on June 10, 2008, Dr.
Robertson developed concerns that Ms. Babcock might suffer
from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP) because Ms.
Babcock's description of A.G.B.'s health problems,
medication needed, and dietary regimen appeared to conflict
with the collateral documents received. In connection with a
status hearing scheduled for August 12, 2008, Dr. Robertson
advised the trial court by letter of her concerns regarding
the number of different doctors from whom Ms. Babcock sought
medical treatment for A.G.B. Dr. Robertson further advised
the trial court that Ms. Babcock stated that on A.G.B.'s
chart at one doctor's office it had been suggested that
she suffered from MSbP. Dr. Robertson indicated that she was
not trained to determine if Ms. Babcock suffered from MSbP,
and she believed it was essential that Ms. Babcock receive a
complete psychological evaluation by Michael Chafetz, Ph.D.,
August 20, 2008, Mr. Martin filed a second rule for sole
custody, asserting that Ms. Babcock refused to undergo an
immediate psychological evaluation by Dr. Chafetz. He also
sought an ex-parte order of provisional custody, alleging
that he feared for A.G.B.'s safety and welfare. The trial
court granted Mr. Martin provisional custody of A.G.B., with
no visitation by Ms. Babcock pending the hearing of the
matter "due to the gravity of the circumstances."
August 29, 2008, and September 17, 2008, Dr. Chafetz
conducted a psychological evaluation of Ms. Babcock, and on
September 7, 2008, issued a report wherein he concluded that
Ms. Babcock suffered from MSbP and should only have
supervised visitation with A.G.B. After receiving Dr.
Chafetz's completed report, Dr. Robertson provided an
evaluation to the trial court dated September 28, 2008.
October 2, 2008, the matter came before the trial court for
hearing. Both Dr. Chafetz's and Dr. Robertson's
reports were made part of the record without objection. The
parties entered into an agreement that was reduced to
judgment signed December 1, 2008, granting Mr. Martin sole
legal and physical custody of A.G.B. The consent judgment
further decreed that Ms. Babcock was to have supervised
visitation of A.G.B. upon complying with the following
conditions: (1) Ms. Babcock shall begin and maintain active
therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist who understands
the disorders identified in Dr. Chafetz's report; (2) the
mental health professional shall be approved by the trial
court and report on a monthly basis to the trial court; (3)
Ms. Babcock's visitation shall be supervised by a
registered nurse who is acceptable to the trial court and to
the parties; and (4) the trial court shall set the frequency
and times of the visitation periods upon compliance with the
conditions and recommendations of A.G.B.'s therapist and
Ms. Babcock's therapist.
Babcock did not appeal the December 1, 2008 judgment. On July
27, 2009, Ms. Babcock filed a rule seeking the appointment of
James R. "Randy" Logan, Ph.D., as the
court-appointed psychologist to provide the therapy required
in the December 1, 2008 judgment. In connection therewith,
Dr. Logan testified before the trial court on October 21,
2009 as to his competency to provide treatment. However, the
hearing was not completed at that time, and was continued.
to the trial court's ruling on Dr. Logan's
appointment as Ms. Babcock's treating psychologist, Ms.
Babcock began therapy with Dr. Logan. On June 19, 2010, Dr.
Logan advised the trial court by letter that after meeting
with Ms. Babcock on six occasions, he was convinced that the
diagnosis of MSbP must be called into question. In his
opinion, the methodology used by Dr. Chafetz was inadequate
and incomplete, and the data presented in Dr. Chafetz's
report was inconsistent with MSbP. Dr. Logan opined that a
more likely explanation was that immediately after birth
A.G.B. presented with multiple life-threatening medical
challenges that would likely overwhelm any parent; in the
face of such complex medical issues, it was probable that Ms.
Babcock's response to medical instructions was less than
optimal; and as a further exacerbating variable the above
issues occurred in the context of a high-conflict, intensely
adversarial custody dispute. Dr. Logan advised that the
primary focus of his work with Ms. Babcock was preparing her
for resumption of contact with A.G.B.
Babcock's rule to appoint psychologist was re-set for
hearing on February 1, 2011. The trial court denied the
appointment of Dr. Logan as treating psychologist, indicating
Dr. Logan's disagreement with Dr. Chafetz's
diagnosis. In a judgment signed May 23, 2011, the trial court
ordered that the Department of Psychiatry at the LSU Health
Science Services in Shreveport, Louisiana, (LSU-S) be
approved and appointed as Ms. Babcock's treating
therapist in conformity with the December 1, 2008 consent
judgment. The trial court further ordered that counsel for
Ms. Babcock would endeavor to make an appointment for Ms.
Babcock with LSU-S, seek to procure the names of professional
treating psychiatrists, and provide such names to counsel for
Mr. Martin. Ms. Babcock did not appeal this judgment.
a significant period of dormancy in the proceedings, on
January 14, 2015, Ms. Babcock filed a "Rule to Enforce
Monetary Relief and Modify Judgment." In relevant part,
Ms. Babcock requested the trial court modify the custody and
psychiatric care provisions of the December 1, 2008 consent
judgment and May 23, 2011 order on her rule to appoint a
treating psychiatrist, so as to provide her with greater
access to her minor child. Ms. Babcock claimed that it was in
the best interests of A.G.B. for the consent judgment to be
vacated. She further requested that the trial court revise
the order on her rule to ...