IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: EMM, MRM, and GRM, minor children.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Petitioner). AMBER LYNN MARIE HURD, Appellant (Respondent),
from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable
Catherine R. Rogers, Judge
Representing Appellant: Donna D. Domonkos, Domonkos Law
Office, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E.
Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Wendy S. Ross,
Senior Assistant Attorney General.
Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State Public
Defender, Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate
Counsel, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program, a division of the
Office of the State Public Defender.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, [*] DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Amber Lynn Marie Hurd (Mother) did not respond to the
petition of the Department of Family Services (DFS) to
terminate her parental rights within 20 days after service.
Upon the application of DFS, the clerk of court entered
default against Mother. Approximately four months after being
served, Mother filed a motion to set aside the entry of
default. Mother appeals the district court's denial of
her motion. We affirm.
We rephrase Mother's single issue as follows: Did the
district court abuse its discretion when it determined that
Mother had not shown good cause to set aside the entry of
Mother is the natural mother of three children, born in 2008,
2009, and 2011, who have spent the majority of their lives in
the care and custody of others. In June 2014, after nearly
three years in the guardianship of their grandmother, the
children returned to Mother's full-time care. The next
month, DFS received a report that Mother and her boyfriend
were physically abusing the children and forcing them to stay
in a bedroom without food, water, or access to a bathroom.
DFS visited Mother's residence and observed severe
bruising on two of the children and a paddle on which
"A** Beater" and the children's names were
written. On August 1, 2014, the juvenile court placed the
three children in custody of DFS and thereafter adjudicated
Mother as having neglected the children. In a separate
proceeding in district court, Mother was convicted of felony
child abuse and, after failing to meet the conditions of her
probation, was incarcerated at the Wyoming Women's
In March 2016, DFS initiated this case by filing in district
court a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights against
Mother and the fathers of the children. DFS personally
served the petition and summons on Mother at the Wyoming
Women's Center on March 22, 2016. Mother did not file a
responsive pleading or otherwise defend the petition within
20 days and, upon DFS's application, the clerk of court
entered default against Mother on April 12, 2016. The
following week, the district court issued an order setting a
default hearing. Copies of the application for entry of
default, the entry of default, and the order setting the
default hearing were served on Mother by mail.
Mother first responded to the termination petition
approximately four months after it was personally served on
her. In July 2016, Mother mailed letters to the district
court and to counsel for DFS asking that the case be put
"on hold" and that she be provided court-appointed
counsel. The district court vacated the default hearing and
provided to Mother the paperwork necessary to obtain
court-appointed counsel. Shortly thereafter, Mother's
court-appointed attorney entered her appearance, filed a
response to the termination petition, and filed a motion to
set aside the entry of default.
The district court held a hearing on the motion to set aside
the entry of default. Mother testified that, prior to
receiving the termination petition, the juvenile court had
changed the permanency plan from reunification to adoption.
Mother stated that she assumed the termination petition was
part of the juvenile case. Further, she believed
(incorrectly) that she was still represented by counsel in
that case. Regardless, upon ...