In the Matter of: JANE DOE I, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JOHN DOE I (2017-15), Respondent-Appellant. JANE DOE and JOHN DOE II, husband and wife, Petitioners-Respondents,
Opinion No. 105
from the Magistrate Court of the Third Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. A. Lynne Krogh,
judgment terminating John Doe I's parental rights is
County Public Defender, Caldwell, attorneys for appellant.
Scott J. Davis argued.
F. Jacobson, Boise, attorney for respondents.
Nature of the Case
case arising out of Canyon County, John Doe I
("Father") appeals a magistrate court's order
terminating his parental rights to Jane Doe I
("Child"). Father argues that it was error to
conclude that he neglected Child because Jane Doe
("Mother") prevented Father from supporting or
contacting Child. Father also argues that the magistrate
court, in analyzing the best interest of Child, impermissibly
compared Father's relationship to John Doe II
("Stepfather") without considering Mother's
Factual and Procedural Background
and Father were married in December 2008 and are the
biological parents of Child, who was born in July 2009. In
April 2010, Mother moved from California to Idaho with Child.
In July 2010, Father visited Child for her birthday. In
October 2010, Mother established residency in Idaho, filed
for divorce, and sought sole custody of Child. Mother
testified that there were several instances of domestic
violence in the marriage and that Father would drink heavily
and could become aggressive and abusive. Father testified
that there was no domestic violence and that he did not have
an alcohol or anger problem during the marriage.
October 2010, Mother began dating Stepfather. In November
2010, the divorce decree was entered, which awarded Mother
sole custody of Child and required Father to pay child
support. In early 2011, Father moved to Idaho. In February
2011, Father visited Mother unexpectedly, acted profane,
smelled of alcohol, and wanted to take Child. Mother called
the police, and Father was removed from the property.
April 2011, Mother permitted Father to visit Child for four
consecutive weekends, the last of which was an overnight
visit. Afterwards, Father testified that Mother stopped
letting him visit Child because he had not paid child
support. Mother testified that, in addition to Father not
paying child support, Father was not prepared for his visits
with Child (specifically, Mother complained that Father did
not have a car seat for Child at his first visit and another
time asked Mother for diapers). Stepfather testified that
after the April 2011 visits, Father's text messages to
Mother became aggressive, and as a result, Mother stopped
communicating with Father directly. However, Mother kept in
touch with Father's family.
2011, Stepfather moved in with Mother and Child. Around the
same time, Father moved in with Mother's friend
("Girlfriend") and her two children. In late 2011,
Mother and Stepfather moved into a different home, and Mother
got a new cell phone number. Mother did not give Father the
new address or phone number.
early 2012, Father filed a petition to modify custody. On
September 14, 2012, a magistrate court modified the divorce
decree to reflect that: (1) Mother shall continue to have
sole legal and primary physical custody of Child; (2) Father
is entitled to supervised visitation at K.I.D.S. Services or
a similar facility for up to one hour every two weeks; (3) if
Father wants unsupervised visitation he would be required to
submit to an alcohol and psychiatric evaluation to the court;
(4) Father is not to consume alcohol within 48 hours of
visitation with Child; and (5) Father is required to pay $296
in child support each month.
was conflicting testimony at trial regarding Father's
attempted visitations after the 2012 custody modifications.
Father testified that he called K.I.D.S. Services, filled out
the paperwork, and paid the fees. He testified that he called
and emailed to schedule a visit with Child, but K.I.D.S.
Services informed him that Mother was not responding and
refunded his money. Father testified that he tried to
schedule a visit approximately six times over a two-month
period before he stopped trying. Mother testified that she
called K.I.D.S. Services, filled out the paperwork, but never
received a call to schedule a visit. Father made no further
attempts to visit Child or to modify custody through the
maintained relationships with other individuals in
Father's family, but they did not provide Father with her
contact information. Father learned of events in Child's
life through his family. Father provided birthday gifts for
Child in 2011 and 2012.
2013, Father was convicted of domestic violence involving
Girlfriend. The court entered a no contact order, which
Father violated twice. In March 2016, Father and Girlfriend
separated. In June 2016, there was another incident of
domestic violence in which Father assaulted Girlfriend.
Father was sentenced to four years fixed plus six
indeterminate, which was suspended with retained
jurisdiction. At the time of trial, Father was doing a rider
at the state facility in Cottonwood.
testified that he served in the army for six years and had
been working as an accountant since 2013. Stepfather
testified that Child started calling him "Dad, "
and while at first he corrected her, he relaxed and allowed
it after Father's family also referred to Stepfather as
"Dad." Mother and Stepfather testified that Child
has a "father-daughter relationship" with
Stepfather that is similar to his relationship with their
other sons. Stepfather is involved in Child's daily life.
Until the summer of 2015, Child was not aware she had a dad
other than Stepfather.
testified that Father lived with her and her two children,
who were from a previous relationship, for nearly five years.
Father and Girlfriend also had their own child sometime in
2012. She testified that Father "was a wonderful father
and step-father." Girlfriend testified that the
incidents between her and Father did not make him a bad dad,
and that she would not stop him from seeing her kids.
Girlfriend testified that Father talks about Child "all
the time, but he felt helpless ...