In the Matter of Adoption by Step-Parent of: JOHN DOE.
JANE DOE (2018-16), Respondent-Appellant. JANE DOE I, Petitioner-Respondent,
from the Magistrate Court of the Seventh Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Butte County, Hon. Ralph L. Savage,
judgment of the magistrate court is reversed and
Williams, Meservy & Lothspeich, LLP, Jerome, for
Appellant. Brian J. Williams argued.
Doe I, Arco, Respondent pro se.
an appeal from a decision of the magistrate court denying a
motion by Jane Doe (Mother), the biological mother of an
adult, mentally-incapacitated child (Son) to set aside a
decree of adoption declaring Jane Doe I (Step-Mother) to be a
parent of Son. The decree was entered upon the joint petition
for adoption filed by Son's biological father (Father)
and Step-Mother. Mother was not given notice of the
proceedings. Upon learning of the adoption, she filed a
motion to set aside the decree pursuant to Idaho Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b). Father and Step-Mother did not respond
to Mother's 60(b) motion, which the magistrate court
denied. In this direct appeal from the decision of the
magistrate court, Mother argues that the lower court erred in
denying her motion because notice to Mother and her consent
was required. We reverse and remand.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
and Father were never married. Son was born in 1996. When Son
was nine years old he was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy
leaving him severely cognitively impaired. At the time of
these proceedings, Mother lived in New Hampshire and Son
resided with Father and Step-Mother in Arco, Idaho.
20, 2017, Father and Step-Mother jointly petitioned the
magistrate court to permit Step-Mother to adopt Son.
According to the petition: "This Petition is for an
adoption, and does not seek to terminate the natural
mother's parental rights, such as they are."
Although the petition asserted that Father consented to the
adoption, Father's consent did not substantially comply
with the statutory form prescribed in Idaho Code section
16-2005(4) as required by Idaho Code section
16-1506(3). Mother was not provided notice of the
adoption proceedings and consequently her consent was neither
sought nor given.
hearing on the petition, the magistrate was informed that
Mother had not been notified of the
proceedings. Despite this, the magistrate found that
"I've got everybody here that needs to be here for
the purposes of making a-giving a consent in this particular
case." The magistrate court found that while Son's
consent would normally be needed for his adoption, pursuant
to Idaho Code section 16-1504(1)(a), Son's mental
impairment obviated this requirement. The magistrate court
then entered the decree of adoption granting Father and
StepMother's petition. The decree ordered that Son's
name be changed, that a new birth certificate be issued
showing Step-Mother as Son's parent, and that Son would
be "regarded and treated in all respects as
Mother was informed of the adoption, she filed a notice of
appeal to this Court and a motion to set aside the decree of
adoption with the magistrate court pursuant to Idaho Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b). We stayed appellate proceedings
pending resolution of the pending Rule 60(b) motion.
hearing Mother's motion, the magistrate court issued a
written decision. Mother had argued that because her consent
was required by Idaho Code section 16-1504(1)(c), she was
entitled to notice by operation of Idaho Code section
16-1505(1)(a). The magistrate court noted the discrepancy
between Idaho Code section 16-1504's treatment of
children of wed and unwed parents and found "no rational
explanation for this distinction." The magistrate court
observed the statute's unique history and interpreted it
to "not require the consent of either parent for an
adult adoption." The magistrate court denied
Mother's motion because: "Since no notice [was]
required, [Mother] has no basis to contest the lack of
notice." Mother amended her original notice of appeal to
include the magistrate court's decision on her 60(b)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Mother argues that her lack of required notice and consent
renders the decree of adoption void, we freely review the
magistrate court's decision to deny Mother's motion
to set aside the judgment. Berg v. Kendall, 147
Idaho 571, 576, 212 P.3d 1001, 1006 (2009). "[W]here
nondiscretionary grounds are asserted, the ...