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Cain v. Cain - 903 So. 2d 590

Rule:

The principle that questions of credibility are for the trier of fact to resolve applies to the evaluation of expert testimony, unless the stated reasons of the expert are patently unsound.

Facts:

After the birth of the parties' sons, appellant father was voluntarily admitted to a mental health facility. Thereafter, he joined the U.S. Army. The mother petitioned for divorce and was ultimately granted sole custody of the children, subject to the father's limited visitation. The mother described a pattern or harassment by the father, which was corroborated, and the father was found to have bipolar disorder and other serious problems. Appellant father challenged the decision of the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo (Louisiana), which awarded sole custody of his two sons to appellee mother.

Issue:

Did the district court unjustifiably disregard the facts and evidence presented by medical experts that substantiated appellant’s fitness as a parent?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed on appeal. The court found that there was no basis to reconsider the best interest factors of La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 134. The mental health panel's conclusions, together with the history of friction between the parties, weighed heavily in favor of the trial court's judgment that found a change of circumstances since the consent judgment of joint custody and that awarding the mother sole custody was in the children's best interests pursuant to La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 131, 132. The trial court was within its discretion to discount the opinions of the father's experts and to accept conclusions of the court-appointed mental health panel. The father withheld facts from his experts. The court stated that the judgment was expressly subject to modification if the father was evaluated by, cooperated with, and consented to treatment by a particular doctor, and a substitute for the doctor was to be made by the trial court if the doctor was truly unavailable.

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