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In re Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 8, 2017

In the Matter of: JANE DOE II, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JOHN DOE and JANE DOE (2017-19), Respondents-Appellants. JOHN DOE I and JANE DOE I, Petitioners-Respondents,

         2017 Opinion No. 124

         Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. A. Lynne Krogh, Magistrate Judge.

         The magistrate court's final judgment is affirmed.

          Krista L. Howard, Interim Chief Public Defender, Caldwell, for appellants.

          Danielle C. Scarlett, Nampa, for respondents.


          JONES, Justice.

         I. Nature of the Case

         In an expedited appeal out of Canyon County, Jane Doe and John Doe (2017-19) ("Mother, " "Father, " and collectively, "Parents") appeal a magistrate court's Final Judgment terminating their parental rights to Jane Doe II ("Child"). Jane Doe I and John Doe I ("Grandmother, " "Grandfather, " and collectively, "Grandparents") initiated the underlying action by filing a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and a Petition for Adoption. The magistrate court issued a Final Judgment terminating Parents' parental rights after concluding that Parents had abandoned Child and that the termination of Parents' parental rights was in Child's best interest. On appeal, Parents challenge the magistrate court's conclusion that Child was abandoned and that termination of parental rights was in Child's best interest.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Mother and Father were married in October 2006 and have six children together ranging in age from three to thirteen ("Children, " and when not including Child, "Siblings"). Child was born in 2006 and is the second oldest of the Children.

         Before the guardianship of Child became an issue, Grandparents and Parents were on good terms. Parents had financial difficulties, but Grandparents were their safety net. Parents and Children lived with Grandparents off and on from about the time Child was one year old. At times, Mother and Children would live with Grandparents without Father because Father was incarcerated.

         During the 2012-2013 school year, Child lived with Parents and attended first grade, but she did not do well in school. Father testified that Child's poor performance was likely due to her being easily distracted and having to live in the very tight quarters of a 32-foot motor home. Grandparents testified that Child performed poorly because she missed many school days due to the instability of Parents' home life. Grandparents offered, and Parents agreed, to allow Child to live with Grandparents and repeat the first grade at a different school. Child began living with Grandparents on July 4, 2013. Between July 2013 and August 2014, Child lived with Grandparents during weekdays and with Parents during weekends.

         On August 8, 2014, Child was staying with Parents for the weekend, but called Grandmother and asked to be picked up. Grandmother testified that, during bath time that evening, she observed that Child had fingerprint-like marks on her bottom and red marks on her face. Child explained that Father had hit her so hard that she thought her head "was going to pop off." Grandmother testified that they did not call the police at that time because they believed that the matter could be resolved within the family.

         Days later, Father called the Sheriff's office because Grandparents had not returned Child. Father did not press kidnapping or custodial interference charges because he believed that Child would be returned to Parents within a few days. However, instead of returning Child to Parents, Grandmother applied for a domestic violence protection order on behalf of Child against Father. Around October 6, 2014, the protection order was granted. The protection order prohibited Father from contacting Child for one year.

         Grandparents filed for guardianship of Child on August 19, 2014. On March 3, 2015, an order was issued appointing Grandparents as temporary guardians of Child. Days after the entry of the temporary guardianship order, Grandmother contacted an agency that provided supervised and monitored parent/child visitations to arrange supervised visits between Child and Siblings.

         Eight visits occurred between April 2015 and July 2015, which were documented by an agency employee ("Supervisor"). It had been eight months since Child had seen Siblings. Supervisor's summary report of the eight visits concluded with the following notes. The visits were very difficult because Parents and Grandparents did not work well together. Grandparents terminated the visits after the eighth visit. Supervisor attempted to negotiate a better schedule for future visits, but Grandparents said that they would work with a different agency. Supervisor called Mother to inform her that Grandparents refused to continue visits with the agency. Mother wept and begged Supervisor to continue to arrange visits with Grandparents. Supervisor tried several times to work with Grandparents, but they refused all visitation requests.

         Parents' attempts to contact Child have been unsuccessful. As of May 26, 2017 (when the magistrate court issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order), there had been no contact between Child and Parents or Siblings since July 2015. Parents have not provided support for Child during Grandparents' guardianship. Father testified that despite earning between $1, 200 and $1, 600 per month, they did not support Child financially in any way. Specifically, Father testified as follows:

Q: So after October 2015 [the expiration of the protection order], what did you do to financially support [Child]?
A: There wasn't anything that I did.
Q: Hmm?
A: I didn't do anything.
Q: You didn't do anything to ...

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