In re Doe, 032019 IDCCA, 46584

Docket Nº:46584
Opinion Judge:GRATTON, CHIEF JUDGE.
Party Name:In the Matter of: Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II, Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age. v. JANE DOE, Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,
Attorney:Randall S. Barnum, Boise, for appellant. Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Madison N. Miles, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
Judge Panel:Judge HUSKEY and Judge BRAILSFORD CONCUR.
Case Date:March 20, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Idaho
 
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In the Matter of: Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II, Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.

IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

v.

JANE DOE, Respondent-Appellant.

No. 46584

Court of Appeals of Idaho

March 20, 2019

THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED OPINION AND SHALL NOT BE CITED AS AUTHORITY

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

Judgment terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Randall S. Barnum, Boise, for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Madison N. Miles, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

GRATTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

Jane Doe appeals from the judgment terminating her parental rights to her two minor children. Doe argues that the magistrate erred in terminating her parental rights because (1) the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (Department) did not make reasonable efforts to reunite her with the children, (2) the Department did not provide sufficient grounds for termination, and (3) the Department did not establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interests of the children.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Doe and John Doe are the biological parents of two children, L.B. born in 2016 and Z.B. born in 2018. In June 2017, the magistrate awarded legal custody of L.B. to the Department after police executed a search warrant on the Doe's residence and declared L.B. in imminent danger. The police served the warrant to investigate allegations that John Doe had victimized his oldest daughter, A.B. At the time of the search, Doe and John Doe were married and living together, with L.B., in a converted one-car garage. The residence did not have a toilet or running water. Fifteen animals were living in the residence and police found a large quantity of marijuana. There was an overwhelming smell of stale marijuana and animal urine. Officers observed that L.B. smelled like urine, was underweight, and had matted hair. Doe admitted that the couple had been selling marijuana from the residence for over a year, often in the presence of L.B. In addition, Doe admitted that she and John Doe used the drug on a daily basis.

As a result of the search, both parents were convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and felony injury to child. Additionally, John Doe was convicted of felony sexual exploitation of a child for possessing pornographic photos of A.B. Doe was placed on felony probation for ten years. Later, Doe pled guilty to failure to report for aiding John Doe by deleting five pornographic photographs from John Doe's phone that depicted A.B. In August 2017, the court approved case plans for both parents. In May of 2018, Z.B. was born. At the time of Z.B.'s birth, John Doe was incarcerated for the above offenses. A month after birth, Z.B. was placed in foster care. The Department was awarded legal custody, and the court approved additional case plans for both parents.

In October 2018, the Department filed an amended petition for termination of parental rights. At John Doe's direction, a default judgment was entered against him. Following trial, the magistrate terminated Doe's parental rights after finding clear and convincing evidence that Doe had neglected the children, had an inability to discharge her parental responsibilities for a prolonged period, and termination was in the best interests of the children. Doe timely appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

A parent has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000); Doe v. State, 137 Idaho 758, 760, 53 P.3d 341, 343 (2002). This interest is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Doe, 144 Idaho 839, 842, 172 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2007). Implicit in the Termination of Parent and Child Relationship Act is the philosophy that, wherever possible, family life should be strengthened and preserved. I.C. § 16-2001(2). Therefore, the requisites of due process must be met when terminating the parent-child relationship. State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006). Due process requires that the grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Id. Because a fundamental liberty interest is at stake, the United States Supreme Court has determined that a court may terminate a parent-child relationship only if that decision is supported by clear and convincing evidence. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 769 (1982); see also I.C. § 16-2009; In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761-62, 203 P.3d 689, 691-92 (2009); Doe, 143 Idaho at 386, 146 P.3d at 652.

On appeal from a decision terminating parental rights, this Court examines whether the decision is supported by substantial and competent evidence, which means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Doe v. Doe, 148 Idaho 243, 245-46, 220 P.3d 1062, 1064-65 (2009). The appellate court will indulge all reasonable inferences in support of the trial court's judgment when reviewing an order that parental rights be terminated. Id. The Idaho Supreme Court has also said that the substantial evidence test requires a greater quantum of evidence in cases where the trial court's finding must be supported by clear and convincing evidence than in cases where a mere preponderance is required. Doe v. Doe, 143 Idaho 343, 346, 144 P.3d 597, 600 (2006). Clear and convincing evidence is generally understood to be evidence indicating that the thing to be proved is highly probable or reasonably certain. In re Doe, 143 Idaho 188, 191, 141 P.3d 1057, 1060 (2006). Further, the magistrate's decision must be supported by objectively supportable grounds. Doe, 143 Idaho at 346, 144 P.3d at 600.

Idaho Code § 16-2005 permits a party to petition the court for termination of the parent-child relationship when it is in the child's best interest and any one of the following five factors exist: (a)...

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