Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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In an expedited appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, a magistrate court terminated Jane Doe’s (“Mother”) parental rights after finding clear and convincing evidence that Mother neglected her children, K.M. and R.M., and that termination was in the best interests of the children. Mother did not appeal the magistrate’s finding that she neglected her children. She only appealed the magistrate court’s finding that termination was in the best interests of the children. The magistrate court found Mother’s testimony lacked credibility and relied on other witnesses to find that Mother had neglected her children under Idaho Code section 16-2005(1)(b) because Mother had failed to reunify with her children and had failed to comply with her case plan. According to Mother, termination was not in the best interests of her children because Mother had a close bond with her children, K.M. was not responding well to foster care, there was no evidence of violence between Mother and her children, and Mother tried to the best of her ability to comply with her case plan. The Supreme Court found substantial evidence supported the magistrate court's finding that termination was in the children's best interests, and affirmed. View "Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Jane Doe (2019-27)" on Justia Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s s decree terminating her parental rights. Both Mother and her child (Child) tested positive for methamphetamine when he was born. Law enforcement declared that Child was in imminent danger, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW or Department) assumed temporary custody. A case plan for reunification was adopted, focusing on Mother’s substance abuse and mental health issues, and on obtaining safe and stable housing. Mother made no progress on her case plan, and was subsequently incarcerated. IDHW petitioned to terminate Mother’s paternal rights. After a termination hearing in September 2019, where Mother argued that her recent sobriety and improved lifestyle justified the denial of the Department’s petition, the magistrate court entered a decree terminating Mother’s parental rights based on Mother’s neglect and the best interests of the child. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion, and affirmed the magistrate court’s decree. View "Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Jane Doe (2019-32)" on Justia Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her minor son, A.V. The magistrate court concluded that the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Mother and John Doe (“Father”) neglected A.V. and that termination was in A.V.’s best interests (Father’s termination was the subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47200)). A.V. went into foster care in November 2017, when he was approximately two-and-a-half years old. The child was malnourished; health care providers testified the child was four to six months developmentally delayed. November 2017 was his second trip to foster care; social workers found A.V. weighed less than he had in his first trip a year before, "the size and weight of a twelve-month-old." In response to a question about why she thought A.V. was losing weight in the time period before he was placed into care in November of 2017, Mother testified that she was dealing with a very big loss—the death of her mother by suicide—and unfortunately she let it get in the way of her life and the lives of her children. She did not ask for help because she did not want people feeling sorry for her. However, after A.V. was placed in foster care, she realized that all of this could have been avoided if she had just reached out for help. A Department social worker developed a case plan for Mother and Father. Both parents were present at the case plan meeting in which the case plans were designed. The magistrate court determined, however, by clear and convincing evidence the Department had established statutory grounds for termination under Idaho Code section 16-2002(3)(b), neglect through failure to complete a case plan, and under section 16-1602(31), neglect through conduct or omission of the parents. The magistrate court also determined that termination was in A.V.’s best interests. A final judgment and a decree were entered, terminating both Mother’s and Father’s parental relationship with A.V. Mother’s main argument on appeal was that the magistrate court erred in terminating her parental rights because her disabilities prevented her from completing her case plan. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s decree terminating Mother’s parental rights. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Father John Doe appealed a magistrate court's judgment granting the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“the Department”) petition to terminate his parental rights to his son, A.V. The magistrate court concluded the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Father and Jane Doe (“Mother”) neglected A.V. and that termination was in A.V.’s best interests (Mother’s termination was the subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47190)). Father’s main argument on appeal was that the magistrate court erred in terminating his parental rights because it was not in A.V.’s best interests to be separated from his siblings. A.V., the child at issue in this case, went into foster care in November 2017, when he was approximately two-and-a-half years old. The child was malnourished; health care providers testified the child was four to six months developmentally delayed. November 2017 was his second trip to foster care; social workers found A.V. weighed less than he had in his first trip a year before, "the size and weight of a twelve-month-old." Father testified that he was aware that A.V. was malnourished and not developing as he should have been while he was in Father’s care, and that he did not obtain services to help A.V. with walking and talking. However, Father did not realize that A.V. had lost weight when he came back into their care. One Department social worker testified that Father feels that it is his responsibility to work and provide financially for the family, and it is Mother’s responsibility to ensure the children are getting their medical and emotional needs met and to feed and care for them during the day. She further testified that she had talked with Father about his observing A.V. being underweight or not gaining weight, and Father said that he told Mother she needed to take care of it. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court did not err in concluding termination was in A.V.'s best interests, even though termination would result in A.V. being separated from his siblings. The Court determined it was not error for the magistrate court finding Father was also responsible for A.V.'s neglect. Accordingly, the magistrate court was affirmed. View "DHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Father John Doe appealed a magistrate court's termination of his parental rights to his minor children “B.L.S.” and “A.C.S.” On Christmas Eve, 2017, the Department received a referral when A.C.S. was born prematurely. Mother’s amniotic fluid had ruptured prematurely due to drug use. Tests confirmed that A.C.S. was prenatally exposed to methamphetamine. Shortly after her birth, A.C.S. was life-flighted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington for treatment. Mother explained that she and Father had been in an on-and-off relationship for the past 20 years. At the time of the meeting, Mother and Father lived together in a camper on his family’s farm near Kendrick, Idaho. Mother disclosed that she actively used methamphetamine and had used methamphetamine while pregnant with A.C.S. She also explained that she and Father used methamphetamine together in their camper, sometimes with their children present. Mother described frequent incidents of domestic violence that occurred in the home: when the couple fought, it could become violent, where they would yell and throw appliances and other objects at each other. After an adjudicatory hearing where Father and Mother again stipulated to jurisdiction and custody, the Department worked with the parents to develop a case plan. At a review hearing in October 2018, the Department requested an early permanency hearing on the grounds that both parents had made little progress on their case plans. Agreeing that the parents had made very little progress up to that point, the magistrate court moved the permanency hearing up from December 2018, to November 26, 2018. At the permanency hearing, the magistrate court approved a permanency plan that sought termination of parental rights and relative adoption with the foster parents as the primary goal for each child. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Father failed to preserve his argument that Idaho Code section 16-1622(2)(g)(i) caused the magistrate court to violate his right to due process by moving the date of the permanency hearing from December to November. Further, the Supreme Court determined the magistrate court's decision to termination Father's parental rights was supported by substantial, competent evidence. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s order terminating Father’s parental rights to B.L.S. and A.C.S. View "DHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her minor children “B.L.S.”, “X.V.S.”, and “A.C.S.” Mother’s amniotic fluid had ruptured prematurely due to drug use. Tests confirmed that A.C.S. was prenatally exposed to methamphetamine. Shortly after her birth, A.C.S. was life-flighted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington for treatment. Mother explained that she and Father had been in an on-and-off relationship for the past 20 years. At the time of the meeting, Mother and Father lived together in a camper on his family’s farm near Kendrick, Idaho. Mother disclosed that she actively used methamphetamine and had used methamphetamine while pregnant with A.C.S. She also explained that she and Father used methamphetamine together in their camper, sometimes with their children present. Mother described frequent incidents of domestic violence that occurred in the home: when the couple fought, it could become violent, where they would yell and throw appliances and other objects at each other. After an adjudicatory hearing where Father and Mother again stipulated to jurisdiction and custody, the Department worked with the parents to develop a case plan. At a review hearing in October 2018, the Department requested an early permanency hearing on the grounds that both parents had made little progress on their case plans. Agreeing that the parents had made very little progress up to that point, the magistrate court moved the permanency hearing up from December 2018, to November 26, 2018. At the permanency hearing, the magistrate court approved a permanency plan that sought termination of parental rights and relative adoption with the foster parents as the primary goal for each child. Mother argued on appeal that the magistrate court abused its discretion by holding the permanency hearing 11 months after the children were placed in the Department's custody, and that the decision to terminate was not supported by substantial, competent evidence. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed termination of parental rights. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review stems from the complex divorce between Jerry and Veronika Papin. Jerry appealed the district court’s decision, which affirmed in part the judgment of the magistrate court dividing the marital estate. On appeal, Jerry argued the district court erred in affirming several of the magistrate court’s rulings, including: (1) its holding that the marriage settlement agreement was invalid; (2) its holding that the community was entitled to reimbursement for the funds expended towards the mortgage and property taxes on Jerry’s separate property home; (3) its characterization of certain property as either separate or community; (4) its valuation of certain property; (5) its award of spousal maintenance to Veronika; and (6) its award of attorney fees to Veronika. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that the marriage settlement agreement failed for lack of consideration, but on the alternate theory that there was no consideration as between Jerry and Veronika. Likewise, the Court affirmed the district court’s rulings concerning the characterization of the sale proceeds and the business as community property, the valuations of the business, the determination that the community was entitled to reimbursement for the funds expended towards the mortgage and property taxes on Jerry’s separate property home, the division of the remaining personal property, the grant of spousal maintenance, and the grounds for the divorce. However, the Court reversed the district court’s decision on attorney fees and remanded to the district court with instructions to reverse and remand to the magistrate court for further proceedings. No attorney fees or costs were awarded on appeal. View "Papin v. Papin" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a private action by grandparents seeking to terminate the parental rights of a mother (their daughter) to her child (their grandchild). Grandparents sought termination of Mother’s rights to Child on the grounds Mother abandoned Child, Mother neglected Child, and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in Child’s best interests. Following the trial, the magistrate court granted the Grandparents’ petition, ultimately concluding that Mother’s conduct met the definitions of abandonment and neglect set forth in sections 16-2002(5) and 16-1602(31) of the Idaho Code. The magistrate court further concluded that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in Child’s best interests. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jane Doe I and John Doe I v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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In 2013 and 2014, mother Jordain Bradford was involved in relationships with both Shad Hamberlin and Matthew Edwards. She did not marry either man. On September 24, 2014, Bradford gave birth to a minor child, T.J.H. Bradford and Hamberlin discussed the timing of her pregnancy and decided that Hamberlin had to be T.J.H.’s father. Bradford did not discuss the pregnancy with Edwards, nor were any additional objective measures, such as a paternity test, taken at that time. When T.J.H. was over nine months old, Bradford and Hamberlin each signed and notarized a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit (“VAP”), in which they both acknowledged that Hamberlin was the biological father of T.J.H. The State of Idaho then issued a birth certificate listing Hamberlin as T.J.H.’s father. Bradford and Hamberlin lived with T.J.H., generally in Bradford’s parents’ home, until around September 2016, when they separated. Hamberlin filed suit to establish child custody and child support for T.J.H. Bradford initially answered the petition by admitting, among other things, that she and Hamberlin were the biological parents of T.J.H. and that “both parties should have legal custody and joint physical custody of T.J.H. . . .” Bradford reversed course less than one month later, amending her answer to disavow that Hamberlin was a biological parent of T.J.H., and positing that Hamberlin should not have custody. Bradford amended her answer again in January 2017. This pleading continued to deny that Hamberlin was a biological parent of T.J.H., and affirmatively asserted that Hamberlin “has [no] legal right to have any of the care, custody and control of the minor child. . . .” Bradford also asserted for the first time, as an affirmative defense, that Hamberlin “is not the biological father of the minor child at issue in this matter.” The magistrate court rejected the mother’s effort to rescind the VAP and the district court affirmed that ruling. Bradford appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hamberlin v. Bradford" on Justia Law

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Brandi and Brandon Kelly were married and had a son. After about two years of marriage Brandon filed for divorce. Once the divorce was final the magistrate court awarded sole legal custody and primary physical custody of the child to Brandon. Brandi filed a permissive appeal, arguing the magistrate court erred by relying on an inadmissible parenting time evaluation and following the recommendations of a biased evaluator. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by permitting Brandon to hire Dr. Jane McNaught to perform a parenting time evaluation as his expert. "[M]ost of the errors stem from the magistrate court's reliance on Brandon's experts," and the court specifically declined to appoint Dr. McNaught as the court's expert under IRFLP 719. "Parenting time evaluators must adhere strictly to the ethical principles that govern their conduct as a neutral." The Supreme Court determined the facts of this case established how the court’s appointment of Dr. McNaught violated these legal standards. While there was some evidence in the record to support the magistrate court’s custody decision, that evidence was so tainted by the court’s reliance on Dr. McNaught’s testimony, the Supreme Court found it was unreliable. In addition, the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering Brandi to undergo psychological evaluation and counseling as recommended by Dr. McNaught. The Supreme Court affirmed certain evidentiary rulings for guidance upon remand, but it did vacate the custody judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Kelly v. Kelly" on Justia Law