Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Ralph L. Savage, Magistrate.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Melanson, Judge
2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 775
THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED
OPINION AND SHALL NOT
BE CITED AS AUTHORITY
Decree terminating parental rights, affirmed.
Jane Doe appeals from the magistrate's decree terminating her parental rights. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
In May 2011, John Doe filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of his former spouse, Jane Doe, with respect to their two children who were born in 2003 and 2006. In the petition, John alleged that Jane had abandoned the children and that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the children. After trial in April 2012, the magistrate entered a decree terminating Jane's parental rights. Jane appeals.
Jane argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the magistrate's determination that she willfully abandoned her children and that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the children. A parent has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. Doe v. State, 137 Idaho 758, 760, 53 P.3d 341, 343 (2002). See also Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246, 255 (1978). This interest is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Doe, 144 Idaho 839, 842, 172 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2007). Because a fundamental liberty interest is at stake, the United States Supreme Court has determined that a court may terminate a parent-child relationship only if that decision is supported by "clear and convincing evidence." Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 746 (1982). See also I.C. § 16-2009; In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761-62, 203 P.3d 689, 691-92 (2009); State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006).
On appeal from a decision terminating parental rights, this Court examines whether the decision is supported by substantial and competent evidence, which means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Doe v. Doe, 148 Idaho 243, 245-46, 220 P.3d 1062, 1064-65 (2009). The appellate court will indulge all reasonable inferences in support of the trial court's judgment when reviewing an order that parental rights be terminated. Id. The Idaho Supreme Court has also said, however, that the substantial evidence test requires a greater quantum of evidence in cases where the trial court's finding must be supported by clear and convincing evidence, than in cases where a mere preponderance is required. Doe v. Doe, 143 Idaho 343, 346, 144 P.3d 597, 600 (2006). Clear and convincing evidence is generally understood to be evidence indicating that the thing to be proved is highly probable or reasonably certain. In re Doe, 143 Idaho 188, 191, 141 P.3d 1057, 1060 (2006). Further, the court's decision must be supported by objectively supportable grounds. Doe, 143 Idaho at 346, 144 P.3d at 600.
Idaho Code Section 16-2005 permits termination of the parent-child relationship when it is in the child's best interest and any one of the following five factors exist: (a) abandonment; (b) neglect or abuse; (c) lack of a biological relationship between the child and a presumptive parent; (d) the parent is unable to discharge parental responsibilities for a prolonged period which will be injurious to the health, morals, or well-being of the child; or (e) the parent is incarcerated and will remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time. Each statutory ground is an independent basis for termination. Doe, 144 Idaho at 842, 172 P.3d at 1117. Abandonment means that the parent has willfully failed to maintain a normal parental relationship including, but not limited to, reasonable support or regular personal contact. I.C. § 16-2002(5). Failure of the parent to maintain a normal parental relationship without just cause for a period of one year constitutes prima facie evidence of abandonment. Id. However, even when a prima ...