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In re Guardianship of JR

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 14, 2016

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF: JR, Minor Child. TINA ESHLEMAN, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
RANDY ROSENBERG and JENNIFER ROSENBERG, Appellees (Respondents)

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County. The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge.

         For Appellant: Carrol S. Nelson of Priority Legal, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

         Appellees, Pro se.

         Guardian Ad Litem: No appearance.

         Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          OPINION

          FOX, Justice.

          [¶1] Tina Eshleman,[1] the maternal aunt of JR, filed petitions for temporary and permanent guardianship of the child. After a hearing on her petition for permanent guardianship,

Page 911

the district court concluded that she had not established that Mother and Father were unfit parents and denied her petition. Ms. Eshleman appeals and we affirm.

         ISSUE

          [¶2] Did the district court correctly find that Ms. Eshleman did not establish that Mother and Father were unfit?

         FACTS

          [¶3] JR was born on April 2, 2013, to Jennifer and Randy Rosenberg (Mother and Father). On March 27, 2014, Mother left JR in the care of Ms. Eshleman, Mother's sister and the Appellant here. Ms. Eshleman filed a petition for emergency guardianship on April 25, 2014, and a petition for permanent guardianship on April 29, 2014, and was appointed temporary guardian. A full evidentiary hearing on the petition for permanent guardianship was held on May 20, 2015.

          [¶4] At that hearing, Ms. Eshleman presented very little evidence as to Father. She presented evidence regarding Mother's past behavior, but presented little evidence as to her current fitness as a parent. Ms. Eshleman testified that Mother had struggled to raise her children, that she does not live with any of her other three children, that she used methamphetamine in the past, that she has a long history of drug use, and that she served time in prison in the past year. Ms. Eshleman testified that she had concerns with JR's care while she was with Mother: JR did not receive proper nutrition, she was not clean when she was given to Ms. Eshleman by Mother in March of 2014, and Ms. Eshleman questioned whether she had been molested. She also testified that neither Mother nor Father attempted to contact or financially support JR while she was in Ms. Eshleman's care from March of 2014 through May of 2015. Ms. Eshleman also offered evidence that JR received excellent care while living with her and that JR had been thriving.

          [¶5] Mother and Father, who appeared pro se, testified that they currently reside in Spokane, Washington. Mother testified that she was pregnant with her fifth child at the time of the hearing and was a stay-at-home mom. She testified that Father was a cook at a local restaurant, and that he made a sufficient amount of money to pay their bills and allow Mother to stay home. She admitted to using methamphetamine in the past and to serving 242 days in jail for attempted robbery. She also testified that she had made mistakes in the past, but that her life was now on track, and she was presently clean and not using drugs. Father testified that while he did not have custody of his other minor children, he remained involved in their lives and had been working to make up arrears in child support payments. He also testified that he previously used both methamphetamine and marijuana, but that he had stopped using drugs and did not drink.

          [¶6] After the hearing on the matter, the district court ruled that Ms. Eshleman failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Mother and Father are unfit as parents. Ms. Eshleman timely appealed.

         STANDARD ...


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