State obo Maci W. v. Mark B.

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A-19-0099, State obo Maci W. v. Mark B.

Adams County District Court, Judge Stephen R. Illingworth

Attorney for Appellant: Shane M. Cochran (Snyder, Hilliard & Cochran, L.L.O.)

Attorney for Intervenor-Appellee: Adam R. Little (Ballew Hazen, PC, LLO)

Civil Action: Parental Preference; Child Custody

Action Taken by Trial Court: Pamela Waters gave birth to Maci Waters in 2011. From 2014 up through when this action began, Pamela allowed Maci to live with Debra Waters (Pamela’s adoptive mother). In 2016, the State filed a complaint against Pamela and Mark Bentley to establish support on Maci’s behalf, alleging that Mark was Maci’s father as shown by genetic testing. Mark filed an answer and a cross-complaint for sole custody; Debra later intervened with intent to retain custody under her alleged in loco parentis status. Mark’s paternity was established by trial court order on March 16, 2017. Mark first met Maci on March 23. Mark’s time with Maci, as permitted by Debra or the trial court, increased as the action was pending.

After a trial, the trial court found that a parental preference should not apply to Mark because of his long absence from Maci’s life and that a sole custody award to Debra was in Maci’s best interests. Debra was awarded custody of Maci, subject to Mark’s parenting time.

Assignments of Error: Mark assigns that the trial court erred when it determined that the parental preference doctrine did not apply and that it was in Maci’s best interests to remain in Debra’s care.

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District Court
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Moore, Chief Judge, Bishop, and Arterburn, Judges