Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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John Doe (Father) appealed a decision to terminate his parental rights to his minor child Jane Doe II (Child). The magistrate court terminated Father’s parental rights on a petition from Child’s Stepfather and Mother, Jane Doe I (Mother), after finding that Father had abandoned Child and termination was in Child’s best interest. On appeal, Father argued that the magistrate court’s findings are not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Father testified that he was incarcerated for having sex with three girls that were underage. Father also testified that he may not be released from prison for an additional thirteen years. Father testified that Child may not even remember or recognize him. Father further testified about the satisfactory nature of Child’s care with Mother. With this evidence in the record, the magistrate court’s finding that termination was in the best interest of Child is supported by substantial and competent evidence of Father’s conduct, both before and after incarceration. Further, the magistrate’s legal conclusion to terminate Father’s parental rights follows from its factual findings. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "Jane Doe I v. John Doe (2017-31)" on Justia Law

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John Doe (2017-27) (“the father”) and Jane Doe (2017-27) (“the mother”) appealed magistrate court judgments terminating their parental rights to their daughters (“Z.W.” and “N.W.”). The magistrate court terminated the mother and father’s parental rights on the grounds of neglect, abuse, inability to discharge parental responsibilities, and chronic abuse and/or neglect, and also found termination was in the best interest of the children. The mother only challenged the termination of her parental rights as to N.W., while the father challenged the termination of his parental rights as to both of the children. The sole issue the father argued on appeal was that the magistrate court did not have substantial and competent evidence to find terminating his parental rights was in the best interest of both children. Finding no abuse of discretion in judgments against either parent, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court. View "Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John & Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (Mother) appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her minor child, A.L. (Child). The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights to Child on August 26, 2016, and an amended petition on June 30, 2017. After a two-day trial, the magistrate court found termination proper on several bases of neglect and entered an order to that effect. On appeal, Mother argued the magistrate court’s decision was not based on substantial, competent evidence, and that termination was in the child’s best interests. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s judgment. View "IDHW v. Doe (2017-36)" on Justia Law

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This cases involved the statutory termination of parental rights by two adoptive parents after John Doe I (“Child”) was alleged to have sexually assaulted a sibling. John and Jane Doe adopted Child in June 2016. The Does’ adoption came after a previous out-of-state adoption of Child was ended through legal termination of parental rights (a “disrupted adoption”). In September 2016, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“the Department”) received a report from Jane Doe that Child had sexually assaulted his younger sister (aged nine), another adoptive child of the Does. Child was twelve years old at the time of the incident. Thereafter, the Does worked with the Department and juvenile corrections personnel to determine the best course of action with regard to Child. In October 2016, Child’s juvenile corrections proceeding was expanded to a child protective proceeding, and he was placed in shelter care with the Department. The expansion order specified that “[t]he parents indicate [Child] will never be able to return to their home due to the safety of the other children.” Child was subsequently taken to a residential care facility in Utah (“the Utah facility”) to receive treatment, including mental health services. The treatment program was not permanent placement, but Child’s completion of the program was expected to take up to a year. Shortly after Child was taken to the Utah facility, the magistrate court decreed that Child was to be placed under the protective custody of the Department because it would be contrary to Child’s welfare to remain in the Does’ home. The magistrate court then held a hearing on the case plan submitted by the Department and approved the plan without any objections from the parties. The magistrate court ultimately entered judgments (one for each parent) terminating the Does’ parental rights on three grounds: inability to discharge parental responsibilities, best interest of the Does and Child, and voluntary consent. Child appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court record did not support the finding of termination: “[w]ithout compelling substantive evidence, the primary argument for the Does’ unfitness appears to be premised on the same idea that undergirded the Department’s argument as to Child’s best interest: namely, Child cannot return to the Does’ home due to the nature of the sexual assault incident and the presence of the victim and other children in the home.” The Supreme Court reversed the termination of parental rights and the order of guardianship, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Doe I (2017-21)" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe and John Doe (2017-19) (“Mother,” “Father,” and collectively, “Parents”) appealed a magistrate court’s Final Judgment terminating their parental rights to Jane Doe II (“Child”). Jane Doe I and John Doe I (“Grandmother,” “Grandfather”) initiated the underlying action by filing a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and a Petition for Adoption. The magistrate court issued a Final Judgment terminating Parents’ parental rights after concluding that Parents had abandoned Child and that the termination of Parents’ parental rights was in Child’s best interest. On appeal, Parents challenged the magistrate court’s conclusion that Child was abandoned and that termination of parental rights was in Child’s best interest. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "John & Jane Doe (2017-19) v. John & Jane Doe I" on Justia Law

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Appellant Norman Wechsler and Respondent Sharon Wechsler, divorced in New York in 2005. A Divorce Judgment was entered by the New York County Clerk on February 3, 2006, setting forth a distribution of the parties’ property and maintenance obligations. In 2014, Sharon moved a New York court for an order to direct the entry of a money judgment in her favor because Norman had defaulted on his obligation to transfer funds according to the Divorce Judgment. A New York court granted Sharon’s motion and issued a $9,468,008.98 Judgment in her favor. In 2012, Sharon partially collected on a $17,669,678.57 divorce-related Judgment by executing on Norman’s house in Colorado. Between the acquisition of Norman’s Colorado house, and the filing of the Foreign Judgment in Idaho, Norman did not disclose his updated address; accordingly, in an affidavit filed with the Idaho Foreign Judgment, Sharon indicated that Norman’s last known address was the Colorado house that she had acquired. Unbeknownst to Sharon, Norman had moved to a rental apartment in Angel Fire, New Mexico. After living in New Mexico for one year, Norman moved to Pocatello, Idaho. The New York Judgment at issue here was filed in Idaho as a “Foreign Judgment,” and the issues before the Idaho Supreme Court relate to Sharon’s attempts to collect. Norman challenged the Idaho district court’s order in favor of Sharon; he attacked the judgment on jurisdictional, constitutional, abuse-of-discretion and procedural grounds. Finding none of these arguments availing, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Idaho district court’s judgment and awarded Sharon attorney fees. View "Wechsler v. Wechsler" on Justia Law

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Lisa Searle, nka Loosle (“Mother”) appealed a magistrate judge’s order which modified the current child custody plan outlined in the 2013 order between Mother and Dustin Searle (“Father”). Mother argued the magistrate judge abused its discretion: (1) in determining there had been a substantial, material, and permanent change in circumstances warranting a change in custody; and (2) in determining it was in the best interests of Child to modify the existing custody agreement and give Father physical custody during the school year. Finding that the magistrate judge erred in modifying the parties’ custody arrangement, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the magistrate court to reinstate the custody arrangement from a 2013 order, giving Mother custody during the school year and Father custody during school breaks and holidays. View "Searle v. Searle" on Justia Law

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John Doe I (“Father”) appealed a magistrate court’s order terminating his parental rights to Jane Doe I (“Child”). Father argued the court erred in concluding he neglected Child because Jane Doe (“Mother”) prevented Father from supporting or contacting Child. Father also argued the magistrate court, in analyzing the best interest of Child, impermissibly compared Father’s relationship to John Doe II (“Stepfather”) without considering Mother’s actions. Despite Mother’s unwillingness to provide her or Child’s contact information, the evidence demonstrated that Father had several opportunities to play a role in Child’s life, but his attempts to do so inevitably lost traction. Child’s relationship with Stepfather was only one factor that was considered by the magistrate court in determining that termination was in the best interest of Child. The magistrate court also considered that Father had not paid child support, or made a substantial effort to contact Child since 2012. The Idaho Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the magistrate court to consider these factors when it analyzed whether termination was in the best interest of Child, and affirmed that court's decision in all respects. View "Doe II v. Doe I" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe II (“Grandmother”) raised her two young granddaughters, VG and CG. Grandmother met Jane Doe I (“Former Girlfriend”) soon after CG’s birth. Grandmother and Former Girlfriend were involved in a romantic relationship and moved to Idaho with the girls, where they all lived together for several months. Soon thereafter, Grandmother ended the relationship with Former Girlfriend. Former Girlfriend moved out of the home, but continued to care for the girls. Grandmother became legal guardian of both girls. In March 2013, Grandmother filed a petition to make Former Girlfriend a co-guardian because she thought it would ensure that the girls would remain together if something happened to her. About a year later, Grandmother and Former Girlfriend filed a joint petition to terminate the biological parents’ rights and co-adopt the girls. The written agreements to adopt that were prepared prior to the hearing were changed to reflect that Former Girlfriend would adopt CG and Grandmother would adopt VG. During the hearing on the matter, the petition to terminate the biological parents’ rights was granted, as were the separate adoptions. Police were called in to physically remove CG from Grandmother’s home; shortly thereafter, Former Girlfriend moved to terminate Grandmother’s guardianship. In late December 2016, Former Girlfriend filed a motion for summary judgment in this case seeking co-adoption of both girls and orders of guardianship or visitation based on the parties’ original petition for co-adoption. In response, Grandmother filed a motion to dismiss the petition, stating that she no longer wished to have the co-adoption go forward. The legal issues presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review of this matter were: (1) whether there was a basis for claiming legal error where a magistrate judge expresses a likely outcome of a motion, but does not actually hear the matter or enter an order; (2) whether an order vacating a final judgment is appealable under Idaho Appellate Rule 11(a); and (3) whether a guardian gave sufficient legal consent to an adoption. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, finding the trial court did not err in its decision with respect to the consent issue; with respect to the others, the Court determined it lacked jurisdiction for review. View "Jane Doe I v. Jane Doe II" on Justia Law

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This case was previously before the Idaho Supreme Court in In Matter of Doe (2016-14), 389 P.3d 141 (2016). There, the Court vacated the judgment terminating Jane Doe’s parental rights to her son M.R. and remanded the case for further findings of fact and conclusions of law. On remand, the magistrate court again terminated Doe’s parental rights. The magistrate court found that M.R. was neglected as defined by Idaho Code sections 16-2002(3)(a) and 16-2002(3)(b) and that Doe’s compliance with her case plan was not impossible. Doe timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "H & W v. Jane Doe (2017-3)" on Justia Law