Articles Posted in Family Law

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Jane Doe and John Doe (2017-19) (“Mother,” “Father,” and collectively, “Parents”) appealed a magistrate court’s Final Judgment terminating their parental rights to Jane Doe II (“Child”). Jane Doe I and John Doe I (“Grandmother,” “Grandfather”) initiated the underlying action by filing a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and a Petition for Adoption. The magistrate court issued a Final Judgment terminating Parents’ parental rights after concluding that Parents had abandoned Child and that the termination of Parents’ parental rights was in Child’s best interest. On appeal, Parents challenged the magistrate court’s conclusion that Child was abandoned and that termination of parental rights was in Child’s best interest. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "John & Jane Doe (2017-19) v. John & Jane Doe I" on Justia Law

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Appellant Norman Wechsler and Respondent Sharon Wechsler, divorced in New York in 2005. A Divorce Judgment was entered by the New York County Clerk on February 3, 2006, setting forth a distribution of the parties’ property and maintenance obligations. In 2014, Sharon moved a New York court for an order to direct the entry of a money judgment in her favor because Norman had defaulted on his obligation to transfer funds according to the Divorce Judgment. A New York court granted Sharon’s motion and issued a $9,468,008.98 Judgment in her favor. In 2012, Sharon partially collected on a $17,669,678.57 divorce-related Judgment by executing on Norman’s house in Colorado. Between the acquisition of Norman’s Colorado house, and the filing of the Foreign Judgment in Idaho, Norman did not disclose his updated address; accordingly, in an affidavit filed with the Idaho Foreign Judgment, Sharon indicated that Norman’s last known address was the Colorado house that she had acquired. Unbeknownst to Sharon, Norman had moved to a rental apartment in Angel Fire, New Mexico. After living in New Mexico for one year, Norman moved to Pocatello, Idaho. The New York Judgment at issue here was filed in Idaho as a “Foreign Judgment,” and the issues before the Idaho Supreme Court relate to Sharon’s attempts to collect. Norman challenged the Idaho district court’s order in favor of Sharon; he attacked the judgment on jurisdictional, constitutional, abuse-of-discretion and procedural grounds. Finding none of these arguments availing, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Idaho district court’s judgment and awarded Sharon attorney fees. View "Wechsler v. Wechsler" on Justia Law

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Lisa Searle, nka Loosle (“Mother”) appealed a magistrate judge’s order which modified the current child custody plan outlined in the 2013 order between Mother and Dustin Searle (“Father”). Mother argued the magistrate judge abused its discretion: (1) in determining there had been a substantial, material, and permanent change in circumstances warranting a change in custody; and (2) in determining it was in the best interests of Child to modify the existing custody agreement and give Father physical custody during the school year. Finding that the magistrate judge erred in modifying the parties’ custody arrangement, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the magistrate court to reinstate the custody arrangement from a 2013 order, giving Mother custody during the school year and Father custody during school breaks and holidays. View "Searle v. Searle" on Justia Law

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John Doe I (“Father”) appealed a magistrate court’s order terminating his parental rights to Jane Doe I (“Child”). Father argued the court erred in concluding he neglected Child because Jane Doe (“Mother”) prevented Father from supporting or contacting Child. Father also argued the magistrate court, in analyzing the best interest of Child, impermissibly compared Father’s relationship to John Doe II (“Stepfather”) without considering Mother’s actions. Despite Mother’s unwillingness to provide her or Child’s contact information, the evidence demonstrated that Father had several opportunities to play a role in Child’s life, but his attempts to do so inevitably lost traction. Child’s relationship with Stepfather was only one factor that was considered by the magistrate court in determining that termination was in the best interest of Child. The magistrate court also considered that Father had not paid child support, or made a substantial effort to contact Child since 2012. The Idaho Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the magistrate court to consider these factors when it analyzed whether termination was in the best interest of Child, and affirmed that court's decision in all respects. View "Doe II v. Doe I" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe II (“Grandmother”) raised her two young granddaughters, VG and CG. Grandmother met Jane Doe I (“Former Girlfriend”) soon after CG’s birth. Grandmother and Former Girlfriend were involved in a romantic relationship and moved to Idaho with the girls, where they all lived together for several months. Soon thereafter, Grandmother ended the relationship with Former Girlfriend. Former Girlfriend moved out of the home, but continued to care for the girls. Grandmother became legal guardian of both girls. In March 2013, Grandmother filed a petition to make Former Girlfriend a co-guardian because she thought it would ensure that the girls would remain together if something happened to her. About a year later, Grandmother and Former Girlfriend filed a joint petition to terminate the biological parents’ rights and co-adopt the girls. The written agreements to adopt that were prepared prior to the hearing were changed to reflect that Former Girlfriend would adopt CG and Grandmother would adopt VG. During the hearing on the matter, the petition to terminate the biological parents’ rights was granted, as were the separate adoptions. Police were called in to physically remove CG from Grandmother’s home; shortly thereafter, Former Girlfriend moved to terminate Grandmother’s guardianship. In late December 2016, Former Girlfriend filed a motion for summary judgment in this case seeking co-adoption of both girls and orders of guardianship or visitation based on the parties’ original petition for co-adoption. In response, Grandmother filed a motion to dismiss the petition, stating that she no longer wished to have the co-adoption go forward. The legal issues presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review of this matter were: (1) whether there was a basis for claiming legal error where a magistrate judge expresses a likely outcome of a motion, but does not actually hear the matter or enter an order; (2) whether an order vacating a final judgment is appealable under Idaho Appellate Rule 11(a); and (3) whether a guardian gave sufficient legal consent to an adoption. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, finding the trial court did not err in its decision with respect to the consent issue; with respect to the others, the Court determined it lacked jurisdiction for review. View "Jane Doe I v. Jane Doe II" on Justia Law

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This case was previously before the Idaho Supreme Court in In Matter of Doe (2016-14), 389 P.3d 141 (2016). There, the Court vacated the judgment terminating Jane Doe’s parental rights to her son M.R. and remanded the case for further findings of fact and conclusions of law. On remand, the magistrate court again terminated Doe’s parental rights. The magistrate court found that M.R. was neglected as defined by Idaho Code sections 16-2002(3)(a) and 16-2002(3)(b) and that Doe’s compliance with her case plan was not impossible. Doe timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "H & W v. Jane Doe (2017-3)" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (“Mother”) and John Doe (“Father”) were married for twenty-five years and had eleven children between three years of age and twenty-two years of age. In March 2015, the family moved to Spirit Lake, Idaho, to become members of another religious community. The oldest daughter, who was then fourteen years of age, disclosed to that community that Father had sexually molested her when she was a child, starting when she was four or five years of age and ending when she was fourteen; that when she was six, seven, or eight years of age, she told Mother, but Mother did nothing to protect her; and that when she was twelve years of age, the molestation became less frequent as Father began sexually molesting a younger sister who was six years of age. Members of that community encouraged Father to confess to law enforcement, and he and Mother went to the county sheriff’s office and confessed to sexually molesting two of his daughters while they lived in Washington state. Because the offenses did not occur in Idaho, he was not arrested. Members of the community met with Father and Mother and developed with them a plan to protect the other children from Father sexually molesting them. Father and Mother violated the provisions in the plan, and a member of the community contacted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“Department”). The visit ultimately led to charges against Father, in which he pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years in prison and a lifetime of supervision. The Department filed a petition to terminate Father’s and Mother’s parental rights in their minor children. After a two-day evidentiary hearing, the magistrate court found that the Department had proved by clear and convincing evidence that there were grounds for terminating the parental rights of Father and Mother in their minor children. It entered judgments terminating the parental rights of both parents, and they timely appealed. Finding that substantial and competent evidence supported the termination decision, and that termination was in the best interests of the children, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Re: Termination of Parental Rights" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the modification of a default judgment requiring that the parents of a child rotate custody of their three-year-old child every three weeks. The father lived in Blackfoot; the mother lived out of state in Oceanside, California (913 miles away). The Idaho Supreme Court held that the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering that custody rotation. In addition, the mother had moved to modify the judgment by default, but did not move to set aside the entry of default. The Supreme Court held that the father waived the default by litigating the motion to modify. View "Martinez v. Carrasco" on Justia Law

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John Doe appealed a magistrate court’s decision terminating his parental rights. The magistrate court terminated Doe’s rights on the statutory basis of Idaho Code section 16-2005(1), namely, that Doe was incarcerated and is likely to remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time during his sons’ (A.C. and S.C.) minority. The court also found termination was in the best interests of A.C. and S.C. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-4)" on Justia Law

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The issue at the center of this case, presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review, required it to resolve a custody dispute between Jane Doe I, Child’s natural mother, and Jane Doe, the natural mother’s former partner. During the course of Mother and Partner’s relationship, Mother conceived a child via artificial insemination. After the parties separated, Partner filed a petition to establish parentage, custody and visitation with Child. Partner advanced two legal arguments to support her petition: (1) the Court’s decision in Stockwell v. Stockwell, 775 P.2d 611 (1989), provided an independent cause of action by which the court could grant custody to Partner; (2) argued that she should be deemed a parent under Idaho Code section 39-5405, Idaho’s artificial insemination statute, because she consented to the artificial insemination. As part of this argument, Partner contended that Idaho’s artificial insemination statute violated Child’s rights and her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution by discriminating against children born outside of marriage. The magistrate court denied Partner’s claim for parentage, but granted her visitation rights under "Stockwell." After review, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) "Stockwell" did not create an independent cause of action for a non-parent seeking custodial rights to a minor child; and (2) the magistrate court properly dismissed the parentage claims brought pursuant to the Artificial Insemination Act. The judgment of the magistrate court was reversed in part and affirmed in part. The case was remanded to the magistrate court to vacate the temporary visitation order that was entered. View "Jane Doe v. Jane Doe I" on Justia Law