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Woods v. Woods

Supreme Court of Idaho

July 27, 2018

MARYA L. WOODS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
KARL E. WOODS, Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Andrew Ellis, Magistrate Judge.

         The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

          Merritt Dublin Law Office, Boise, for Appellant. Merritt K. Dublin argued. Moore Elia Kraft & Hall, LLP, Boise, for Appellant.

          Cosho Humphrey LLP, Boise, for Respondent. Mackenzie E. Whatcott argued.

          HORTON, JUSTICE.

         Marya Woods (Mother) appeals a decision of the Ada County magistrate court denying her petition for modification of the custody schedule for her two minor children: H.W. (Son) and T.W. (Daughter). Both Karl Woods (Father) and Mother sought to modify the schedule. The magistrate court denied both parents' petitions to modify based upon its finding that there existed no substantial, permanent, or material changes that warranted modification of the custody arrangement. On appeal, Mother argues that the magistrate court abused its discretion in finding no substantial or material change existed. Both parties request attorney fees on appeal under Idaho Code section 12-121. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Mother and Father were divorced in September 2011. The divorce decree provided for custody of the minor children on a rotating schedule in which the children spend seven days with Father and eight days with Mother. Mother brought this action to modify the custody arrangement and child support. Father counterclaimed, also seeking to modify custody and child support.

         After a three-day trial, on May 22, 2017, the magistrate court denied both parents' modification requests based upon its finding that there was no substantial, permanent, and material change that warranted a custody modification. The magistrate court examined the parties' claims that both Mother and Father had attempted to alienate the children from the other parent and found that neither parent had done so. The magistrate court also found that animosity between Mother and Father did not constitute a material and substantial change because: (1) the animosity had been ongoing and predated the divorce; (2) the animosity had not prevented Mother and Father from cooperating in a reasonable fashion as to the care and custody of the children; and (3) no change in the custodial schedule could resolve the children's loyalty conflict. Mother timely filed a permissive appeal pursuant to Idaho Appellate Rule 12.1.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Modification of child custody may be ordered only when there has been a material, substantial and permanent change of circumstances indicating to the magistrate's satisfaction that a modification would be in the best interests of the child. Idaho Code section 32-717 gives a judge wide discretion regarding custody decisions, subject to some restrictions, with the children's best interests being of paramount importance. The determination of whether to modify child custody is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, and this Court will not attempt to substitute its judgment and discretion for that of the trial court except in cases where the record reflects a clear abuse of discretion.
In reviewing an exercise of discretion, this Court must consider: (1) whether the trial court correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) whether the trial court acted within the outer boundaries of its discretion and consistently with the legal standards applicable to the specific choices available to it; and (3) whether the trial court reached its decision by an exercise of reason.

Doe v. Doe (2016-7), 161 Idaho 67, 71-72, 383 P.3d 1237, 1241-42 (2016) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         "An abuse of discretion is found when the magistrate court's 'findings are clearly erroneous such that the court's findings are not based on substantial and competent evidence.'" Clair v. Clair, 153 Idaho 278, 282, 281 P.3d 115, 119 (2012) (quoting Schneider v. Schneider, 151 Idaho 415, 420, 258 P.3d, 350, 355 (2011)). "Findings of fact that are supported by substantial and competent evidence are not clearly erroneous-even in the face of conflicting evidence in the record." Hull v. Geisler, 163 Idaho 247, ___, 409 P.3d 827, 830 (2018). "Substantial and competent evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind ...


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