In the Matter of: JANE DOE and JOHN DOE (2017-16), Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JOHN DOE I and JANE DOE I, husband and wife, Respondents. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, GUARDIAN AD LITEM, IDAHO COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY and JOHN DOE, Petitioners-Appellants,
Opinion No. 39
from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Idaho County, Hon. Jeff P. Payne,
orders of the magistrate court are vacated and
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for appellant
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Marcy J. Spilker
County Prosecuting Attorney, Grangeville, for appellant Idaho
County Prosecuting Attorney. Kirk A. MacGregor argued.
Office of Summer A. Emmert, P.C., Cottonwood, for appellant
John Doe. Summer A. Emmert argued.
Law, PLLC, Grangeville, for appellant Guardian Ad Litem.
Matthew L. Jessup argued.
Brower & Callery, PLLC, Lewiston, for respondents. Karin
R. Seubert argued.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (the Department), the
guardian ad litem, a minor child (L.P.), and the Idaho County
prosecuting attorney appeal several orders entered by the
magistrate court in a post-termination Child Protection Act
(CPA) case. Following termination of the parents' rights
to L.P. and his younger half-sister, E.P, the court appointed
the Department as the children's guardian. The Department
placed the children with Jane Doe, E.P.'s paternal
grandmother, and her husband. After the latest permanency
hearing, the magistrate court refused to allow the Department
to modify the permanency plan for E.P., revoked the
Department's guardianship for E.P, and gave direction
regarding contact and visitation for E.P. This appeal
challenges these orders.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
and E.P. are half-siblings who lived with their maternal
grandmother until her sudden death on March 31, 2014. The
Department filed a petition for custody of the children under
the CPA and placed both children in the home of the Does,
E.P.'s paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. The
Department submitted a permanency plan identifying the goal
of termination of parental rights and adoption by relative.
Early in 2015, the magistrate court approved the permanency
plan. After several months of tension between the Does and
L.P., the Department acceded to the Does' request that
L.P. be removed from their home. The Department did not
inform the magistrate court of the change in circumstances
for several months. Following a trial on issues of neglect,
abandonment, and consent, the magistrate entered an order
terminating the parental rights to both children. On
September 4, 2015, the Department was designated as guardian
of both children.
November of 2015, the Does moved to intervene in the CPA
case. The magistrate judge denied the motion. The court then
entered an order prohibiting the Department from removing
E.P. from the Does' home without court approval. On
January 8, 2016, the Department filed a report and an
expert's sibling assessment that concluded the children
should be placed together because of the strong attachment
between them. In September 2016, the Department filed a
post-termination permanency plan that requested a change in
the permanency goal from adoption by relative to adoption by
non-relative. Due to factual deficiencies, the magistrate
judge rejected that amended permanency plan. In January 2017,
the Department filed a second amended permanency plan that
sought to move forward with adoption of both children by
L.P.'s non-relative foster parents. After a comprehensive
review of the case, the magistrate court rejected the amended
permanency plan with regard to E.P. but approved it with
regard to L.P., removed the Department as guardian of E.P.,
and appointed Jane Doe as E.P.'s guardian. This Court
granted the appellants' motion for permissive appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court exercises free review over questions of law and matters
of statutory interpretation. Guzman v. Piercy, 155
Idaho 928, 934, 318 P.3d 918, 924 (2014). We review the
discretionary decisions of a trial court for abuse of
discretion. Sun Valley Shopping Ctr., Inc. v.
Idaho Power Co., 119 Idaho 87, 94, 803 P.2d 993,
1000 (1991). Under this standard:
[T]his Court asks first whether the magistrate court
correctly perceived the . . . issue as one of discretion;
then whether the magistrate court acted within the outer
boundaries of its discretion and consistently with the legal
standards applicable to the specific choices available to the
court; and finally, ...