In the Matter of the DOE CHILDREN, Children Under the Age of Eighteen Years.
JANE DOE II, Respondent-Appellant. JOHN DOE I and JANE DOE I, Petitioners-Respondents,
Opinion No. 125
from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Payette County. Hon. Brian D. Lee, Magistrate
order of the magistrate court is affirmed.
Timothy Shane Darrington, Weiser, for appellants.
Office of John Alegria, Boise, for respondent. John Alegria
Doe (Mother) brings this expedited appeal from the Payette
County Magistrate Court, which terminated her parental rights
to her two children, M.S. and I.P. On appeal, Mother contends
the magistrate erred by concluding she (1) abandoned M.S. and
I.P. by failing to maintain a normal parental relationship,
and (2) neglected M.S. and I.P. by failing to provide proper
parental care. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case concerns Mother's parental rights to her two
children, M.S. and I.P. Jane Doe I and John Doe I
(Respondents) are the paternal great-grandparents of M.S. and
I.P. Respondents started caring for M.S. and I.P. in late
2010. At that time, Respondents witnessed Mother unable to
hold steady employment and a permanent residence, which
forced Mother to "leav[e] [M.S. and I.P.] with people
all the time." Additionally, Father (Respondents'
grandson) had recently moved out-of-state and largely severed
contact with M.S. and I.P. Respondents became concerned about
the well-being of M.S and I.P. Consequently, Respondents
began hosting M.S. and I.P at their home, offered to let
Mother move in with them, and regularly gave Mother money to
reasons unclear, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
(IDHW) took M.S. and I.P. from Mother in January 2011 and
placed M.S. and I.P. with Respondents, who live in Payette.
Respondents were awarded guardianship in April 2011 and have
since cared fulltime for M.S. and I.P. Mother was awarded
supervised visitation in 2012, but after missing
approximately 14 visits, Mother's supervised visitation
rights were terminated in 2014. Respondents observed the
visits Mother did attend and concluded Mother "is a good
playmate, but as far as taking care of their needs, their
wants, she just don't [sic] seem to have the capacity to
Respondents were awarded guardianship in April 2011, Mother
has been minimally involved with parenting M.S. and I.P.
Specifically, Mother has failed to (1) provide financial
support to M.S. and I.P.; (2) help Respondents "cover
the cost of keeping [M.S. and I.P.]"; and (3)
"[c]over expenses of any kind." Mother's
passive role is partly explained by the fact that, from April
2015 to October 2015, she served time in jail for aggravated
assault. But even since her release from jail in October
2015, Mother has had only minimal contact with M.S. and I.P.
From October 2015 to April 2016, Mother made approximately
five phone calls and five visits to M.S. and I.P. Apparently,
Mother has no driving privileges and is thus limited in her
ability to travel from the Boise/Nampa area to visit
M.S. and I.P. in Payette.
November 2014, Respondents filed a petition to terminate
Mother's parental rights to M.S. and I.P and for
adoption. Respondents amended the petition in January 2015,
seeking to also terminate Father's parental rights.
Father accepted service, but he never appeared. The
magistrate held a bench trial on the issue of terminating
parental rights, leaving the adoption issue for another day.
Mother did not personally appear at trial, but appeared
through counsel.At trial, Respondent Jane Doe I, the only
witness, testified to the above facts. The magistrate
concluded Mother and Father had both abandoned and neglected
M.S. and I.P. The magistrate further concluded terminating
Mother's and Father's parental rights was in the best
interests of M.S. and I.P. Thereafter, the magistrate entered
an order terminating Mother's and Father's parental
rights. Mother timely appeals.
ISSUES ON APPEAL
clear and convincing evidence establish abandonment?
clear and convincing evidence establish neglect?
STANDARD OF REVIEW
"Idaho Code section 16-2005(1), a court may terminate
parental rights if it finds that doing so is in the best
interests of the child and that at least one of five grounds
for termination is satisfied." In re Doe
(2014-23), 157 Idaho 920, 923, 342 P.3d 632, 635 (2015).
"The grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship
must be proved by clear and convincing evidence." In
re Doe (2013-15), 156 Idaho 103, 105-06, 320 P.3d 1262,
1264-65 (2014); see also I.C. § 16-2009.
"Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that
indicates the thing to be proved is highly probable or
reasonably certain." In re Doe (2014-17), 157
Idaho 694, 699, 339 P.3d 755, 760 (2014). "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 opportunity to observe
witnesses' demeanor, to assess their credibility, to
detect prejudice or motive and to judge the character of the
parties.' " In re Doe (2014-23), 157 Idaho
at 923, 342 P.3d at 635 (quoting Doe v. Doe, 150
Idaho 46, 49, 244 P.3d 190, 193 (2010)).