In the Matter of: JANE DOE II, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JOHN DOE (2017-31), Respondent-Appellant. JANE DOE I, Petitioner-Respondent,
Opinion No. 23
from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Bonneville County, Hon. Stephen James
Clark, Magistrate Judge.
judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.
Law Offices, Idaho Falls, for Appellant.
Murray, Ziel & Johnston, PLLC, Idaho Falls, for
Justice Pro Tem.
Doe (Father) appeals a decision of the magistrate court in
Bonneville County to terminate Father's parental rights
to his minor child Jane Doe II (Child). The magistrate court
terminated Father's parental rights on a petition from
Child's Stepfather and Mother, Jane Doe I (Mother), after
finding that Father had abandoned Child and termination was
in Child's best interest. On appeal, Father argues that
the magistrate court's findings are not supported by
substantial and competent evidence. Mother responds that the
magistrate court's findings are supported by substantial
and competent evidence and requests attorney fees on appeal.
We affirm the decision of the magistrate court.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
following facts were found by the magistrate judge and are
supported by evidence in the record. Father and Mother were
married on June 20, 2012, and Child was born to Father and
Mother on August 9, 2012. Based on Father being charged with
domestic battery against Mother, a No Contact Order was
entered by the magistrate court on January 30, 2013, which
provided that Father was to have no contact with mother or
her immediate family (except as to children who are subject
to a separate custody/visitation order) and that Order was
extended until February 6, 2015. Father and Mother
subsequently divorced on January 23, 2014, and a decree of
divorce was entered incorporating a parenting plan and
property settlement agreement between the parties. In the
parenting plan, Father was provided eight hours of supervised
visitation each month on the weekends, together with holidays
and other specified times. In addition, Father was entitled
to telephone or Skype with the child once per week and send
letters. After entry of the divorce decree, the record
reflects that Father would visit with Child approximately
twice each month but these visits decreased in regularity
until Father was incarcerated in May 2015.
part of the parenting plan, Father was obligated to pay child
support of $125 per month beginning January 2014. The only
recorded payments occurred over a three-month period ending
in July 2014, and were as a result of garnished wages. Father
asserted there were some additional cash payments of unknown
amounts with money gained from illegal drug activities.
is currently in prison, serving a sentence of three years
determinate followed by twelve years indeterminate, for two
counts of rape based upon sexual relations with underage
females. Since Father has been incarcerated, Father has had
no contact with Child and has not sent or had delivered any
letters to Child. The magistrate court recognized that, given
Child's age, it was understandable Father did not send
letters, as she could not read them. There were also no
packages or presents sent to Child, although again, the
magistrate court recognized that Father's prison sentence
would have made attempts to do so impractical. However, the
magistrate court also found that Father was aware his sister
had ongoing contact with Mother and was willing to deliver
letters and packages to Child if asked. While Mother had
declined collect calls from Father, Mother did answer the
only pre-paid call made by Father. During this brief call,
Child was not a topic of conversation. Mother married
Stepfather on May 4, 2016. Stepfather has stepped into the
role of Child's father since Mother and Stepfather's
and Stepfather petitioned the magistrate court to terminate
Father's parental rights on November 23, 2016. While
Father initially indicated he would consent to termination
and adoption by Stepfather, Father filed an answer contesting
the termination of his rights to Child.
trial was held on August 31, 2017, to determine whether
grounds for termination existed under Idaho Code section
16-2005. The magistrate judge made findings of fact and
conclusions of law terminating Father's parental rights
based upon a determination that Father had abandoned Child
and termination was in Child's best interest. Father