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In re Termination of Parental Rights of Doe

Court of Appeals of Idaho

May 22, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JOHN (2013-01) DOE.
v.
JANE DOE, Defendant-Respondent. JOHN (2013-01) DOE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 503

Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Carolyn M. Minder, Magistrate.

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Theresa A. Martin, Boise, for appellant.

Ludwig Shoufler Miller Johnson, LLP, Boise, for respondent. Daniel A. Miller argued.

MELANSON, Judge.

John Doe appeals from the magistrate's order terminating his parental rights. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

John and Jane Doe began dating in 2001 and were never married. Their first child was born in 2002 and their second in 2004. In 2005, while John and Jane were separated, Jane was awarded sole legal custody of the children, a visitation schedule was arranged, and John was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $634 per month. The final separation of the couple occurred in 2006. In October 2009, John was arrested and incarcerated for lewd conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen. In August 2010, John was found guilty of that crime and sentenced to a unified term of twenty years, with a minimum period of confinement of five years.

Jane filed a petition to terminate John's parental rights with respect to their two children in March 2011. Jane alleged that John abandoned the children. In April, Jane filed an amended petition and an "Affidavit of Supported Facts to Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and Petition for Adoption" requesting that Jane's husband be allowed to adopt the children. John filed a response and objection to the amended petition. In August, Jane filed a second amended petition to terminate the parental rights of John. In that petition, Jane alleged the following grounds for termination pursuant to I.C. § 16-2005(1): John abandoned the children; was unable to discharge parental responsibilities and such inability would continue for a prolonged indeterminate period and would be injurious to the health, morals, or well-being of the children; and was incarcerated and likely to remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time during the children's minority. Jane also alleged that termination of John's parental rights was in the best interests of the children. After trial in December 2012, the magistrate entered an order terminating John's parental rights. John appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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).

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 ...


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