Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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John Doe (Father) appealed a magistrate court’s decision to terminate his parental rights to his three children: John Doe I (age 12), Jane Doe (age 11), and John Doe II (age 7). The children and their biological mother (Mother) lived in Idaho when the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (the Department) petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Mother eventually voluntarily stipulated to the termination of her rights. Father resided in Tennessee during these proceedings and could not be located by the Department for several months. The Department amended its original petition in Idaho to establish jurisdiction over Father. The Department then moved to obtain authorization to serve the petition on Father by publication in the Tennessee city where Father resided. The magistrate court granted the Department’s request. Ultimately, Father was located in Tennessee and accepted personal service. The Department then filed petitioned to terminate his parental rights. Father participated in the termination trial via Zoom from Tennessee. Throughout the proceeding, Father’s internet connection proved to be unreliable, and he was repeatedly disconnected from the proceeding. Father rejoined the proceeding when the connection was reestablished. Father moved to continue the trial because of the connectivity issue, which the magistrate court denied, noting that it had given the parties the option of joining the proceedings remotely, but that they were required to ensure they had a reliable internet connection. Following the trial, the magistrate court terminated Father’s parental rights based on the grounds of abandonment, neglect, and the inability to discharge parental responsibilities. Father appealed. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed it. View "IDHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the dismissal of a stepfather’s petition for custody and support of a child filed three years after the stepfather and mother divorced. The stepfather based his petition on the underlying divorce and the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in Stockwell v. Stockwell, 775 P.2d 611 (1989). The magistrate court ultimately dismissed the stepfather’s petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, reasoning that the stepfather, who never adopted the child, had brought a common law custody claim under Stockwell, which was specifically prohibited in Doe v. Doe, 395 P.3d 1287 (2017). The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with the magistrate court’s decision and affirmed the judgment of dismissal. View "Glatte v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Lisa and Mark Weaver married in 2016, and had one minor child, A.W., born January 2017. In November 2020, The parties agreed between themselves to split physical custody of A.W. on a roughly 60/40 basis, with Mark having three out of every four weekends. Through court-ordered mediation, the parties resolved all issues relating to their divorce except for “physical custody, visitation, and child support.” Pertinent to this appeal, Mark argued a 50/50 split would be in A.W.’s best interest because it would allow A.W. to have more time with her father and give her more “stability and structure” compared to the temporary custody arrangements the parties had been using. Lisa’s major concern with Mark’s proposed arrangement was the time it would require A.W. to be in daycare when Lisa could provide care for A.W. at home. The magistrate court issued an oral ruling at the conclusion of trial that split physical custody of A.W. between the parties on a roughly 60/40 basis. The magistrate court indicated that its decision did not give either Lisa or Mark exactly what they wanted, but was what the magistrate court believed to be in A.W.’s best interest. Lisa moved the magistrate court for permission to appeal its custody order directly to the Idaho Supreme Court, which was granted. On appeal, Lisa argued the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering a division of custody in which one parent had custody on almost every weekend. The Supreme Court concurred the magistrate court abused its discretion in awarding Mark physical custody of A.W. on almost every weekend, finding the court acted outside the bounds of its discretion and misapplied relevant legal standards in failing to adequately consider the statutory factor concerning A.W.’s interactions and interrelationships with her parents once A.W. started school. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Weaver v. Weaver" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father married in 2016. In May 2020, Child was born in Utah County, Utah. Following Child’s birth, Mother and Father lived in Utah with Child until July 21, 2020, when Mother and Child relocated to Rigby, Idaho, without Father. Since July 21, 2020, neither Child nor Mother returned to Utah, although Father continued to live there. Father maintains that Mother expressed an intent to return to living in Utah by September 2020 and actively participated in searching for apartments with Father in Utah after she and Child moved to Idaho. Mother disputes that she ever expressed an intention to return to Utah after July 21. In October 2020, Father petitioned for divorce from Mother in Utah; the same day, he filed a motion for temporary orders seeking custody and visitation rights to Child. The Idaho magistrate court’s decision in this case indicated that Mother answered the Utah proceeding on December 10. Then, in February 2021, Mother petitioned for divorce from Father in Jefferson County, Idaho. After Father was served with Mother’s petition on February 12, he retained Idaho counsel to specially appear and contest Idaho jurisdiction. Subsequently, Father filed a motion to dismiss Mother’s petition for divorce for lack of jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, arguing that the Utah court had “home state” jurisdiction. The Utah court held oral argument on Father’s motion for temporary custody orders and Mother’s motion to transfer jurisdiction and issued its written order on April 12. Pertinent to this matter, the Utah court concluded that Utah was not an inconvenient forum and that Mother had stipulated in her answer that jurisdiction was proper in Utah. In May, the Idaho magistrate court heard oral argument on Mother’s motion to accept jurisdiction and Father’s motion to dismiss. Following the hearing, the Idaho magistrate court informally conferred with the Utah court about which state was the “more proper” home state, and concluded that the Utah court was the more appropriate jurisdiction to be the home state under the UCCJEA. The magistrate court entered a judgment on May 28, dismissing the Idaho proceeding. Mother appealed dismissal of her proceedings. But the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Idaho magistrate court did not err in denying Mother's motion to accept jurisdiction and dismissing her petition for divorce. View "Swanson v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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Mandy and Dan Valentine divorced in 2015. In 2017, Mandy petitioned the magistrate court for an order modifying the child custody and support provisions of the divorce decree. The magistrate court did not modify the custody provisions in the decree but concluded that substantial and material changes in circumstances existed to justify modifying the child support order. Mandy appealed several aspects of this ruling to the district court. The district court, sitting in an appellate capacity, affirmed in part and reversed in part the magistrate court’s order. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, Mandy challenged the district court’s conclusion that her student loans and several other sources of income could be combined to calculate her income under the Idaho Child Support Guidelines. Dan cross-appealed, challenging the district court’s conclusion that the magistrate court abused its discretion in calculating his pro rata share of childcare expenses. The Supreme Court determined that while the district court correctly interpreted the Idaho Child Support Guidelines to require the inclusion of gross and, if applicable, potential income in the calculation of Guidelines Income, it erred in concluding that the magistrate court’s failure to make a finding that Mandy was voluntarily unemployed or underemployed before imputing potential income to her was harmless. Second, the district court erred in determining that the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering Dan to pay his pro rata share of childcare expenses after subtracting the amount of Idaho Child Care Program benefits Mandy received from the total costs. View "Valentine v. Valentine" on Justia Law

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Terry and Xiomara Robirds married in Taos, New Mexico in 2004. Prior to the marriage, Terry worked for Halliburton and ConocoPhillips. He participated in employer sponsored retirement plans with both employers. In 2007, Terry and Xiomara purchased a residence in Rigby, Idaho. Xiomara’s name was not listed on the warranty deed, and she executed a quitclaim deed to Terry on June 4, 2007. The seller issued a warranty deed to Terry on June 6, 2007. Xiomara filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences in September 2016, and Terry counterclaimed on the same grounds. Xiomara was not proficient in English. The parties attended mediation with a Spanish speaking mediator for Xiomara and reached a partial agreement as to custody, support, and visitation for their only child, but did not resolve the issue of property distribution. Then prior to trial, the parties reached a settlement regarding property division. The record was not clear as to whether Xiomara had an interpreter during the negotiations that resulted in the Property Settlement. Xiomara claimed she did not. Terry averred a Spanish speaking mediator was assigned but did not specifically allege that an interpreter was present during the negotiations which led to the Property Settlement. The divorce decree, entered August 2017 (“Decree”), incorporated the Property Settlement as Exhibit B. Terry appealed the district court’s decision on intermediate appeal, which affirmed the decision of the magistrate court to: (1) set aside a stipulated judgment regarding property distribution; and (2) characterize all of Terry’s retirement accounts as community property, to be divided equally as of the date of divorce. On appeal, Terry argued that the district court erred in affirming the magistrate court’s rulings and in failing to award Terry attorney fees on intermediate appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirm the district court. View "Robirds v. Robirds" on Justia Law

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After Anne Herr petitioned for divorce from John Herr, John asserted that two investment accounts opened during the marriage were his separate property. The magistrate court disagreed, finding that separate and community property had been commingled in the accounts, triggering the presumption that all assets in the accounts were community property. Because John did not present an argument to rebut this presumption, the magistrate court ordered the accounts divided equally between the parties. The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s decision on intermediate appeal. John argued to the Vermont Supreme Court that the district court’s decision should be reversed because evidence sufficient to trace his separate property was admitted at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed because John was obligated to present an argument at trial to rebut the presumption that the assets were community property, not merely to provide evidence from which an argument could have been made. View "Herr v. Herr" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review was one of first impression involving a magistrate court’s custody determination of an eight-year-old developmentally delayed and hearing-impaired child (Child) who was removed from his father’s (Father) care by law enforcement on an emergency basis. Child was found home alone by representatives of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW or the Department). After a shelter care hearing, the magistrate court determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that Child fell within the jurisdiction of the CPA based on a lack of a stable home environment. Father objected to the magistrate court’s exercise of jurisdiction, arguing that because Father had been granted joint custody of Child with Child’s mother (Mother) by a California court, the UCCJEA applied, which required the magistrate court to consult with the California court that had previously entered the custody order before the magistrate court could proceed in Idaho. After contacting and communicating with the California judge’s representative, the magistrate court conducted an adjudicatory hearing, ultimately vesting custody of Child with the Department. Finding no reversible error in this judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court's decision. View "IDHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Cynthia Hilton appealed a trial court's decision to deny her motion to divide an omitted asset: a company partially owned by her ex-husband, Lance Hilton. Cynthia alleged that because the stipulated divorce decree did not list the company as community or separate property, it was an omitted asset and she was entitled to half of its retained earnings allocable to Lance. The magistrate court denied Cynthia’s motion on the basis that it had previously determined the company was Lance’s separate property. On intermediate appeal, the district court affirmed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Hilton v. Hilton" on Justia Law

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Linsay and Kylee Gatsby married in June 2015. They later decided Kylee would attempt to conceive a child through artificial insemination, using semen donated by a mutual friend. It was undisputed that Kylee is the child’s biological mother. The birth certificate worksheet, which Kylee signed, designates Kylee as “mother,” and the word “father” on the form is crossed out and “mother” written by hand in its place to also identify Linsay as the child’s mother. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued a Certificate of Live Birth identifying both Kylee and Linsay as the child’s mothers. Both Kylee and Linsay shared in caregiving, but Kylee was the child’s primary caregiver. The following summer the couple had an argument. Both Linsay and Kylee had been drinking, and Kylee became drunk. Kylee shoved Linsay off a bed. Then Linsay punched Kylee, breaking her nose. The child was in the bedroom during the fight, and Linsay’s two children from a prior relationship were also in the home. Kylee was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery. Kylee had also committed an act of domestic violence years earlier. On July 5, 2017, a No Contact Order (“NCO”) was issued, which prohibited Kylee from seeing the child except at daycare. On August 29, 2017, Linsay filed for divorce. Kylee filed an Answer and Counterclaim, asserting that Linsay had “no legal claim or standing to any custody or visitation” to the minor child. The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on Idaho law pertaining to artificial insemination, paternity, and parental rights in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 647 (2015). The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s ruling that Linsay had no parental rights to the child under Idaho’s common law marital presumption of paternity because she conceded that she lacked a biological relationship with the child. The district court also affirmed that Linsay had no parental rights under the Artificial Insemination Act because she did not comply with the statute’s provisions. The district court further ruled that Linsay would have had parental rights if she had filed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or adopted the child, but she did not do so. Finally, the district court affirmed that Linsay did not have third party standing to seek custody and, in the alternative, that custody or visitation would not be in the child’s best interest if Linsay did have third party standing. Accordingly, the district court's judgment was affirmed. View "Gatsby v. Gatsby" on Justia Law