IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF: JOHN DOE (2014-09), Respondent
2014 Opinion No. 87
Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Twin Falls County. Hon. Roger B. Harris, Magistrate Judge.
The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.
James C. Meservy, Williams Meservy & Lothspeich LLP, Jerome, argued for appellants.
Susan M. Campbell, Deputy Twin Falls County Public Defender, Twin Falls, argued for respondent.
EISMANN, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, and Justices J. JONES, HORTON and J. Pro Tem WALTERS CONCUR.
This is an appeal out of Twin Falls County from a judgment dismissing a petition to terminate the parental rights of the biological father of two children and to permit the children's stepfather to adopt them. The magistrate court dismissed the action on the ground that the petitioners had failed to prove that termination of the father's parental rights would be in the best interests of the children. We affirm.
Mother and Father lived together for about ten years, during which time they had two children. They separated in October 2009, with Mother having custody of the children. In April 2010, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare obtained a judgment against Father requiring him to pay child support for the children. He failed to pay the child support ordered. From the time of the parties' separation through 2011, Father saw the children every other weekend. Mother did not want Father to be alone with the children, and thereafter he saw the children when Mother allowed them to visit his mother, although those visits occurred without Mother's knowledge.
In June 2013, Mother married Stepfather. On August 13, 2013, Mother and Stepfather filed this action seeking to terminate Father's parental rights in the children and to have Stepfather adopt them. They alleged that Father had abandoned the children by failing to maintain a normal parental relationship and that it would be in the children's best interests. The matter was tried in the magistrate court, and at the conclusion of the trial the court held that the Petitioners had proved by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the children, but that they had failed to prove that termination of Father's parental rights would be in the best interests of the children. Therefore, the court dismissed the petition with prejudice. Mother and Stepfather timely appealed to this Court, and Father timely cross-appealed.
Did the Magistrate Court Err in Finding that Petitioners Had Failed to Prove By Clear and Convincing Evidence that Termination of Father's Parental Rights Was in the Children's Best Interests?
Our standard of reviewing the trial court's findings of fact is as follows:
A trial court's findings of fact will not be set aside on appeal ...