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In re Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 13, 2019

In the Matter of: Jane Doe II, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
v.
JOHN DOE, Respondent-Appellant. JOHN and JANE DOE I. Petitioners-Respondents,

          Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonner County. Barry E. Watson, Magistrate Judge.

         The amended judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

          Catherine E. Enright, Bonner County Public Defender's office, Sandpoint, for appellant.

          Jeremy P. Featherston, Featherston Law, Sandpoint, for respondents.

          BRODY, JUSTICE

         This is an expedited appeal from a Bonner County magistrate court's termination of the parental rights of John Doe (Father) to his minor child (IW). John and Jane Doe I, the maternal grandmother and step-grandfather (collectively "Guardians"), filed a petition to adopt IW and terminate Father's parental rights. Guardians alleged that Father abandoned IW and that termination was in her best interests. The magistrate court granted the Guardians' petition, and Father timely appealed. We affirm the magistrate court's amended judgment because there is substantial and competent evidence to support its findings.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         IW is eight years old. At the time of IW's birth, Father owned a house in Vallejo, California, in which Father, Mother, IW, and IW's maternal half-sister, MW, resided. Father and Mother were regular drug users at the time of IW's birth.

         Grandmother was called upon to provide care for IW after she was born. Late one evening, Grandmother received a call from an unknown person stating that IW's parents had left IW with her. Grandmother immediately drove to Vallejo and retrieved the infant. Neither parent was present when Grandmother took custody of IW. IW began residing with Guardians full time. Shortly thereafter, IW's older half-sister, MW, who is also the granddaughter of Grandmother, came to live with them.

         When IW was about six months old, Grandmother filed for legal guardianship of both IW and MW, in Solano County, California, listing step-grandfather as an additional guardian. The California court granted the petition over Father's objection. When the guardianship was granted, the California court issued a written explanation of duties and obligations for Guardians, which they acknowledged by signing the document. Central to this case, the document contained a provision which stated that Guardians did not have the right to change IW's residence to a place outside of California without the court's permission.

         About two months after the California court granted Grandmother's guardianship petition, Father was arrested on charges relating to sexual contact with MW. Following two jury trials, both resulting in hung juries, Father pleaded guilty to a Lewd Act upon a Child and was sent to prison.

         While incarcerated, Father filed for divorce from Mother. Custody of IW was not addressed in the divorce decree as it was "previously established" in the Guardians' California guardianship case. Mother testified at the hearing on the Guardians' petition at issue here that Mother and Father's relationship was tempestuous. Mother accused Father of domestic violence, testifying that he threw her down steps and broke her arm. Mother also testified that she pulled a shotgun on Father upon finding out that he was abusing her daughter, MW.

         Father was released from prison and placed on parole on March 31, 2014, when IW was three-years-old. There was no contact between Father and IW between the time of his release from prison and the time of the termination hearing except that Father claims to have sent a drawing of angel wings to IW and MW at the Guardians' last known address. The record does not contain any evidence establishing whether the drawing was received.

         In November 2015, Guardians moved with IW to Priest River, Idaho. There is no dispute that Guardians did not inform the California court that they were moving, nor did they seek permission from the court prior to moving, as was required by the terms of the ...


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