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In re Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 31, 2017

In the Matter of JANE DOE III, A Minor Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
v.
JOHN DOE I (2016-45), Respondent-Appellant. JOHN DOE and JANE DOE II, Husband and Wife, Petitioners-Respondents,

         2017 Opinion No. 54

         Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Frank P. Kotyk, Magistrate Judge.

         The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

          Tera Harden, Chief Public Defender, Caldwell, for appellant.

          Marcus Christian Hardee & Davies, LLP, Boise, for respondent.

         ON THE BRIEFS

          BRODY, Justice

         This is a parental rights termination and adoption case. John Doe I ("Father") is incarcerated. The magistrate court held that it was in the best interest of Jane Doe III ("Child") that Father's rights be terminated so that John Doe II ("Stepfather") may adopt her. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Jane Doe II ("Mother") and Father are the natural parents of Child. Mother and Father began living together in 2007, and Child was born in early 2008. Mother and Child lived with Father until early 2011, when Mother and Father separated due to continuous domestic violence perpetrated by Father. Since her parents separated, Child has been in the primary physical custody of Mother and has had minimal contact with Father.

         In June 2011, Father was charged with second degree murder. In November 2011, a jury found him guilty of second degree murder and he was sentenced to a minimum of fifteen years confinement, with a subsequent indeterminate period not to exceed life.

         While Father was in jail awaiting trial, Mother and Child visited him frequently. After sentencing, Father was transferred to the Idaho State Correctional Institute in Boise. Mother and Child visited him there once in September 2012. This was the last physical contact Child had with Father. Shortly after this visit, Father was transferred to a prison in Colorado. In early 2016, he returned to the Correctional Institute in Boise. Father made frequent phone calls to Child until 2013 when Mother, out of concern for Child, began restricting calls to Child. Thereafter, Father sent a few letters to Child, but has essentially had no contact with Child since then.

         In 2013, Mother began dating Stepfather. In May 2015, Mother and Stepfather were married. Mother and Stepfather have two children together, and they, Child and their two children live as a family in Nampa. Mother and Stepfather operate two daycare centers in Nampa. Stepfather has acted as a father figure to Child since he began dating Mother, and has had the care, custody and control of Child since he married Mother in 2015. Stepfather loves Child and has normal parent-child interactions with her. Although Child is aware that Father is her biological father, she calls Stepfather "Dad." Stepfather is willing and able to provide financial and emotional support to Child.

         In February 2016, Stepfather, with the consent of Mother, filed a pro se Petition for Adoption of Child. Father filed an answer objecting to the petition and seeking dismissal of the action. After obtaining counsel, Mother and Stepfather, as co-petitioners, filed an Amended Petition for Termination of Parent/Child Relationship and Adoption by Stepparent. Thereafter, a trial was held and the magistrate court issued its Memorandum Decision and Order. The court concluded that Mother and Stepfather had proven by clear and convincing evidence that Father would be incarcerated during Child's entire minority and that it was in the best interest of Child to terminate ...


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