NANCY J. SHEPHERD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JOHN M. SHEPHERD, Defendant-Respondent.
Opinion No. 106
from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Michael J. Griffin,
A. Jackson, P.A., Coeur d'Alene, for appellant. Mark
Flammia & Solomon, P.C., Coeur d'Alene, for
respondent. Anne Solomon argued.
Shepherd (Nancy) appeals from the district court's
decision affirming the magistrate court's final decision
granting in part and denying in part her motion to modify a
decree of divorce. Nancy contends that the district court
erred by refusing to set aside John Shepherd's (John)
visitation under a divorce decree because the magistrate
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award custody
rights to a non-parent and the child's biological father,
Ralph Bartholdt (Ralph), was not a party to the divorce. We
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
and John were married in 2001. In 2005, R.R.B. was born. It
is undisputed that John is not R.R.B.'s biological
father. Nancy, John, and R.R.B. lived together as a family
for the first three years of R.R.B.'s life. In 2008,
Ralph obtained a decree of filiation, custody, visitation and
support from the magistrate court in Benewah County. The
decree declared that Ralph was R.R.B.'s biological
father, awarded joint legal custody of R.R.B. to Nancy and
Ralph, awarded primary physical custody to Nancy, and
provided Ralph with scheduled "on-duty parenting
time." John was not a party to the filiation action. In
2009, Nancy and John divorced. At the time of the divorce,
Nancy and John stipulated that John had an important
relationship with R.R.B. and agreed that John would have
visitation with R.R.B. Ralph was not a party to the divorce
proceedings. In 2010, Ralph began living with Nancy and
February 6, 2012, Nancy filed a petition to modify the decree
of divorce. Nancy sought to eliminate John's right to
visitation with R.R.B., arguing that Ralph had not been a
party to the divorce action and that R.R.B.'s biological
parents had the right to raise him without interference from
John. Nancy further contended that substantial, permanent,
and material changes in circumstances had occurred which
warranted ending John's visitation. Ralph sought to
intervene in the modification proceedings. A hearing was held
on Ralph's motion to intervene but, before the magistrate
court's decision was issued, Ralph withdrew his motion.
Despite Ralph's attempt to withdraw his motion, the
magistrate court issued an order denying the motion to
the petition to modify was still pending, on December 12,
2012, Nancy filed a motion to set aside the custody order in
the divorce decree. The magistrate court held a hearing on
the motion and denied the motion to set aside the custody
order on January 30, 2013.
appealed the magistrate court's denial of her motion to
set aside the custody order to the district court. The
district court stayed the appeal until the petition to modify
the decree of divorce had been decided.
magistrate court conducted a four-day trial on Nancy's
petition to modify the divorce decree on various dates in
late 2013 and early 2014. On June 12, 2014, the magistrate
court issued a decision in which it granted Nancy's
petition in part and denied it in part. The magistrate court
found that there had been a substantial, permanent, and
material change of circumstances that warranted a reduction
in John's visitation with R.R.B. but the magistrate court
denied Nancy's request to terminate John's visitation
rights entirely. The magistrate court's judgment was
filed contemporaneously with its decision. Nancy filed a
timely second amended notice of appeal to the district court.
On January 5, 2015, the district court issued its opinion
affirming the magistrate court's rulings in all respects.
Nancy timely appealed from the district court's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
"On appeal of a decision rendered by a district court
while acting in its intermediate appellate capacity, this
Court directly reviews the district court's
decision." In re Estate of Peterson,
157 Idaho 827, 830, 340 P.3d 1143, 1146 (2014) (quoting
Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v.
McCormick, 153 Idaho 468, 470, 283 P.3d 785, 787
The Supreme Court reviews the trial court (magistrate) record
to determine whether there is substantial and competent
evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and
whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from
those findings. If those findings are so supported and the
conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court
affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the
district court's decision as a matter of procedure.
Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d
758, 760 (2008) (quoting Nicholls v. Blaser, 102
Idaho 559, 561, 633 P.2d 1137, 1139 (1981)). "Thus, this
Court does not review the decision of the magistrate court.
Rather, we are procedurally bound to affirm or reverse the
decisions of the district court." Pelayo v.
Pelayo, 154 Idaho 855, 859, 303 P.3d 214, 218 (2013)
(internal citations and quotations omitted). "We
exercise free review over the issues of law decided by the
district court to determine whether it correctly stated and
applied the applicable law." State Dep't
of Health & Welfare v. Slane, 155 Idaho 274,
277, 311 P.3d 286, 289 (2013). "This Court freely
reviews constitutional questions." State v.
Doe, 148 Idaho 919, 924, 231 P.3d 1016, 1021 (2010).
argues that the district court erred by refusing to void
John's visitation rights under the divorce decree. Nancy
contends: (1) Idaho courts have the power to declare a
judgment void and unenforceable if the judgment was entered
without jurisdiction; (2) there was no legal basis under
Idaho law for the magistrate court to have granted John
visitation rights to R.R.B.; and (3) because Ralph was not a
party to the divorce or modification proceedings, any orders
or judgments relating to John's visitation rights to
R.R.B. are void.
final judgments, whether right or wrong, are not
subject to collateral attack. However, under I.R.C.P.
60(b)(4) a court may relieve a party or his legal
representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding
because the judgment is void. This Court narrowly construes
what constitutes a void judgment." Jim & Maryann
Plane Family Trust v. Skinner, 157 Idaho 927, 933, 342
P.3d 639, 645 (2015) (internal quotations and citations