In the Matter of Parental Rights of SCN and NAN
In In the Matter of Parental Rights of SCN and NAN, 659 P.2d 568 (Wyo. 1983), the Court was asked to review a district court's dismissal of a termination petition filed by mother on the basis of father's lack of support and communication.
There, the parents were divorced, mother was awarded custody and father was ordered to pay child support.
Mother claimed father only made three child support payments and had only incidental contact with the child in the year preceding the termination action.
On appeal from the district court's dismissal of her petition, mother claimed three child support payments by father within one year did not qualify as support under 14-2-309(a)(i).
The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissing the petition, stating:
To terminate parental rights under 14-2-309(a)(i), the district court must decide . . . that a minor child has been "left without provision for the child's support."
The facts in this case indicate that the two minor children were placed in the custody of mother by the court that granted the divorce. The children were not left in mother's care by father. Further, the same order that placed the children in mother's custody also provided for their support by ordering father to make monthly support payments. In view of those facts, the fact that fatherfailed to make all but four 1 monthly support payments is not relevant here where the court could not get past the threshold question presented in the statute. Father's failure to pay regularly would be relevant under an adoption-without-consent proceeding or in an action to compel payment, but not here where the children have been placed in one parent's custody and the action to terminate parental rights is against the non-custodial parent. To hold otherwise would ignore our rule of strict construction in these cases and would allow 14-2-309(a)(i) to be used in a manner for which it was not intended. (SCN, 659 P.2d at 573.)