Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Jane Doe (Mother) appeals the Bonneville County magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her two minor children, K.J.M. and K.M.M. (Children). The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) became involved in this case in November 2012, when it learned Mother and her boyfriend, who was also K.J.M.’s father, were blowing marijuana smoke in K.R.C.’s and K.J.M.’s faces. IDHW visited Mother’s home and noted it was "filthy with pills and drug paraphernalia scattered throughout the home[.]" Further investigation revealed that Mother’s boyfriend was physically abusing Mother. Mother’s boyfriend was arrested for felony strangulation of Mother. Apparently, Mother dropped the charges "due to him being the sole caretaker of the children and needing his help . . . ." In addition, Mother’s boyfriend was physically abusing K.R.C. and K.J.M. Mother reported she had witnessed her boyfriend "shake 4 month old [K.J.M.] . . . and hit[] 1 year old [K.R.C.], leaving bruises on her legs and bottom." Even so, Mother routinely placed them in the care of her boyfriend while she went to work, not "fully comprehend[ing] the danger she [was] placing her children in . . . ." IDHW petitioned to terminate Mother's parental rights to the children in late 2015. After an eight-day trial where over forty witnesses testified and close to 200 exhibits were admitted, the magistrate found termination appropriate on several bases, and entered a judgment of termination. Mother appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Jane Doe (2016-32)" on Justia Law

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Auto Alley, LLC, Calvin Visser, and Vicki Visser appealed a district court order granting a writ of possession and quieting title to certain real property in Douglas Visser. Douglas was awarded the property in his divorce from Vicki in 2005. A dispute subsequently arose and in February of 2014, the parties entered into a stipulation that resulted in Vicki being permitted to continue to occupy part of the property known as “Lot 2.” A stipulated judgment was entered which provided that Douglas would convey Lot 2 to Vicki if she completely performed a number of specific obligations within specified time frames. When Vicki failed to completely perform those obligations, Douglas brought the instant motion to enforce the judgment and the district court granted his motion. Vicki appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed and awarded Douglas attorney fees on appeal. View "Visser v. Auto Alley, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Lincoln County Sheriff took three children into shelter care in 2013 on the ground that the children were endangered in their surroundings and that prompt removal was necessary to prevent serious physical or mental injury to the children. On the same day, the prosecuting attorney filed a petition under the Child Protective Act (“CPA”) and the magistrate court appointed a public defender to represent the children’s mother (Mother) and another public defender to represent the children’s father (Father). Two years later, the Department of Health and Welfare filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father. The evidentiary hearing on that petition was held in 2016. On the morning of the first day of the hearing, Mother’s counsel stated that he would like the magistrate court to determine whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed for Mother pursuant to Idaho Code section 16-2007(5). The magistrate court denied the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Based upon the evidence presented during the hearing, the court found that the parental rights of Mother and of Father should have been terminated on the ground that they each had neglected the children and that termination of their parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The court entered its judgment on June 21, 2016, and an amended judgment on July 21, 2016. Mother appealed, but Father did not. Finding that there was no showing that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Re: Termination of Parental Rights" on Justia Law

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This case concerned a Mother’s parental rights to her two children, M.S. and I.P. Jane Doe I and John Doe I (Respondents) were the paternal great-grandparents of M.S. and I.P. Respondents started caring for M.S. and I.P. in late 2010. At that time, Respondents witnessed Mother unable to hold steady employment and a permanent residence, which forced Mother to “leav[e] [M.S. and I.P.] with people all the time.” Additionally, Father (Respondents’ grandson) had recently moved out-of-state and largely severed contact with M.S. and I.P. Respondents became concerned about the well-being of M.S and I.P. Consequently, Respondents began hosting M.S. and I.P at their home, offered to let Mother move in with them, and regularly gave Mother money to buy groceries. For reasons unclear, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) took M.S. and I.P. from Mother in January 2011 and placed M.S. and I.P. with Respondents. Respondents were awarded guardianship in April 2011 and have since cared full-time for M.S. and I.P. Mother was awarded supervised visitation in 2012, but after missing approximately 14 visits, Mother’s supervised visitation rights were terminated in 2014. A year later, her parental rights to the children were terminated. She appealed the termination, contending that the magistrate court erred in concluding she: (1) abandoned M.S. and I.P. by failing to maintain a normal parental relationship; and (2) neglected M.S. and I.P. by failing to provide proper parental care. Finding the decision was supported by clear and convincing evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Re: Termination of Parental Rights" on Justia Law

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John Doe (Father) appealed a magistrate court’s order which modified the custody arrangement between Father and Jane Doe (Mother) that was outlined in the court’s Judgment and Order Modifying Prior Court Orders. Father argued that the magistrate court abused its discretion when it modified the custody schedule three separate times despite the fact that no evidentiary hearing was held and the court’s prior findings of fact and conclusions of law remained unchanged. Mother cross-appealed, arguing that the magistrate court erred as a matter of law in the findings of fact and conclusions of law it entered in relation to the Order Modifying Prior Court Orders. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the magistrate abused its discretion when it changes the initial custody arrangement, and therefore did not reach Father's other arguments on appeal. The Court reversed the magistrate court’s change of custody in its Order Modifying Prior Court Orders, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Jane Doe I v. John Doe II" on Justia Law

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John Doe and Mother were the natural parents of J.M, an eight-year-old boy. John Doe and Mother had what was described as a sporadic and volatile relationship for approximately ten years. During that time, both Doe and Mother used methamphetamine and other controlled substances and committed acts of domestic violence upon each other. Mother had three children; however, this appeal dealt only with the termination of Doe’s parental rights to J.M. Doe was J.M.'s biological son. Doe appealed the magistrate court’s judgment terminating his parental rights to J.M. The magistrate court determined that it was in J.M.’s best interests to terminate Doe’s parental rights under Idaho Code sections 16-2005(1)(b) and (d) because there was clear and convincing evidence that Doe had neglected J.M pursuant to Idaho Code section 16-2002(3)(b), and/or Doe would be unable to discharge his parental responsibilities for a prolonged indeterminate period of time, which would be injurious to J.M’s health, morals, or well-being. After review of the record, the Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in the decision to terminate parental rights and affirmed. View "Re: Termination of Parental Rights (father)" on Justia Law

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Nancy Shepherd appealed a district court decision affirming the magistrate court’s final decision granting in part and denying in part her motion to modify a decree of divorce. Nancy argued that the district court erred by refusing to set aside John Shepherd’s visitation under the decree because the magistrate court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award custody rights to a non-parent and the child’s biological father, Ralph Bartholdt (Ralph), was not a party to the divorce. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shepherd v. Shepherd" on Justia Law

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John Doe was involved in a fight with his sixteen-year-old daughter, C.G., resulting in C.G. sustaining a concussion and cervical strain. The magistrate court entered a civil protection order., which it subsequently modified. John Doe appealed, arguing that the magistrate court erred when it determined that there was an “immediate and present danger of domestic violence” warranting issuance of the protection order and that the court abused its discretion when it specified that the protection order would be in effect for a year. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jane Doe (2016-01) v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (“Mother”) appealed a magistrate court’s judgment terminating her parental rights as to her children, D.M., A.M., J.S., A.L., and R.L. She argued that the State failed to produce clear and convincing evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that she could parent her children. Specifically, Mother argued that: (1) the last eight months of her participation in the case plan contravene a finding of neglect; and (2) the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“IDHW”) failed to help reunify the family. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "H&W v. Jane Doe (2016-11)" on Justia Law

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The issues in this appeal related to a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) and judgment of divorce that were both signed in April 2012. This dispute was initiated in the magistrate division of the district court in October of 2013, when Sondra Kantor filed a motion to incorporate the parties’ PSA into the parties’ judgment of divorce. Rejecting Robert Kantor’s argument that it lacked jurisdiction to merge the PSA and judgment of divorce, the magistrate court entered a supplemental decree of divorce that incorporated the terms of the parties’ PSA. Sondra then initiated contempt proceedings against Robert. After Robert unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the contempt charges for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the parties reached a stipulated resolution of the contempt proceedings which resulted in a judgment that Robert was in contempt. The stipulation permitted Robert to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. Robert appealed and the district court affirmed the judgment of contempt. The Supreme Court reversed. "The district court’s decision is less understandable. Although the original decree of divorce explicitly stated that the PSA was a 'separate agreement,' the district court inexplicably found this provision to be 'inherently ambiguous as to the question of merger.' The district court did not identify the source of this 'inherent' ambiguity, and we can find nothing in the judgment that renders it ambiguous as to whether the PSA was merged." The Court concluded the Supplemental Decree was void because the magistrate court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to merge the PSA into its earlier judgment. Therefore, the district court erred by affirming the magistrate court’s order denying Robert’s motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Court reversed the decision of the district court and remand with instructions to vacate the magistrate court’s contempt judgment. View "Kantor v. Kantor" on Justia Law