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In re Termination of Parental Rights Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 26, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS JANE (2013-14) DOE.
v.
JANE (2013-14) DOE, Respondent-Appellant, JOHN DOE and JANE DOE, Petitioners-Respondents, and JOHN DOE 1, Respondent.

2013 Opinion No. 115

Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Payette County. Hon. A. Lynne Krogh, Magistrate Judge.

The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

Shane Darrington, Weiser, for respondent-appellant.

Virginia Bond, Payette, for petitioners-respondents.

J. JONES, Justice.

Jane (2013-14) Doe ("Mother") appeals the termination of her parental relationship with her son JLS. Mother left JLS in the care of family members, who then placed JLS with Mr. and Mrs. Doe. The Does petitioned to terminate Mother's parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. Following trial, the magistrate court granted that petition, resulting in this appeal.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

JLS was born in January 2007. In March 2008, Mother left JLS in the care of his great grandmother ("Great Grandmother"). Mother did not have contact with JLS again until May 2009. In May 2008, Great Grandmother could no longer care for JLS, and JLS then went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Doe. JLS has been in the Does' care and custody since he moved in with them. Since March 2008, Mother has lived in Nampa, Caldwell, and Las Vegas.

In August 2009, the Does sought and were granted guardianship over JLS. As part of that guardianship proceeding, the Does and Mother stipulated to a visitation agreement. After the parties executed the visitation stipulation, Mother had six visits with JLS. Mother has not had contact with JLS since February 27, 2010, her last visit under the stipulation. The parties dispute whether Mother thereafter attempted to have contact with JLS but Mrs. Doe acknowledged that the Does would not have allowed more visits between Mother and JLS after the visitation agreement expired.

The parties were to have a visitation hearing on March 1, 2010, which Mother attempted to vacate on February 27, 2010. None of the parties appeared for the hearing. On May 1, 2012, the Does filed a motion to terminate the parental rights of Mother and JLS' father ("Father"). Father did not respond, and on July 12, 2012, the magistrate judge terminated Father's parental rights by default. Father's parental rights are not at issue in this appeal. Following a two day trial, the magistrate judge terminated Mother's parental rights. Mother now appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The question presented on appeal is whether substantial, competent evidence supports the magistrate court's determination that Mother's failure to maintain a normal parental relationship with JLS was (1) willful and (2) without just cause. This Court's "standard of review in parent-child termination cases is well settled." In Interest of Crum, 111 Idaho 407, 408, 725 P.2d 112, 113 (1986). "On appeal, this Court will not disturb the magistrate court's decision to terminate parental rights if there is substantial, competent evidence in the record to support the decision." Doe v. Doe, 150 Idaho 46, 49, 244 P.3d 190, 193 (2010). Substantial, competent evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Folks v. Moscow Sch. Dist. No. 281, 129 Idaho 833, 836, 933 P.2d 642, 645 (1997). This Court must "conduct an independent review of the magistrate court record, but must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the magistrate court's judgment, as the magistrate court has the ...


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