June 29th, 2018
Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
In re: L.M.M., JR.
Opinion Date: June 27, 2018
Judge: John L. Weimer
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Family Law
The biological mother of a child placed under guardianship with the child’s paternal great-aunt filed a petition to terminate that guardianship and to regain custody of the child. Following a three-day trial, the district court terminated the guardianship and awarded joint custody of the child to the guardian and the biological mother, with the mother designated as the domiciliary custodian. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed the district court judgment, reinstated the guardianship, and remanded the case to the district court for purposes of establishing a visitation schedule for the mother. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to assess whether the correct legal standards were applied by the lower courts, and to review the correctness of the district court’s determination that the guardianship should be terminated. The Court held that the proper standard for determining whether an order of guardianship should be modified or terminated was statutorily prescribed by Article 724 of the Children’s Code, which, in this case, required proof by the movant/mother by “clear and convincing evidence” of “a substantial and material change in the circumstances of the guardian or child” because either “[c]ontinuation of the guardianship is so deleterious to the child as to justify a modification or termination of the relationship” or “the harm likely to be caused from a change in the guardianship is substantially outweighed by the advantages to the child of the modification.” Weighing the evidence in light of that evidentiary burden, the Court agreed with the court of appeal’s assessment that the district court erred in determining that the mother met her burden of proving the guardianship should be terminated. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reinstating the guardianship order.
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