In the case of Does I v. Does II, Docket No. 43651-2015, 2016 Opinion No. 56 (May 27, 2016), the Idaho Supreme Court vacated a judgment that appointed two sets of part-time co-guardians for a minor child and set forth a visitation schedule between the sets of guardians. The case originated after the minor child’s paternal grandparents (Does I) and the minor child’s maternal great-aunt and -uncle (Does II) each filed separate petitions seeking to be appointed as the child’s co-guardians. The magistrate court granted both petitions in part, giving each set of co-guardians the “full powers and duties of a guardian” under Idaho Code § 15-5-209. The magistrate entered a judgment appointing Does I as the primary guardians and appointing Does II as co-guardians having a set visitation schedule with the child.
The Idaho Supreme Court reversed. In doing so, the Court made several clarifying points about the nature of guardianship in Idaho. First, upon appointment, “[a] guardian in his or her discretion has the authority to have the custody of the ward and to determine with whom and under what conditions the ward can visit with others.” Slip op. at 3. Second, guardianship is not a custody proceeding. As such, the court’s authority in a guardianship proceeding is limited to appointing the guardian and removing the guardian, “but not to manag[ing] how the guardian exercises his or her powers and responsibilities.” Id. at 5. Third, building on the preceding two points, the Idaho guardianship statute does not authorize the court to appoint more than one guardian or co-guardians for the child. “Multiple guardians cannot each have the powers and responsibilities of a sole parent”; rather, “[t]here can be but one guardian appointed, and that guardian is to have all the powers and responsibilities of a sole parent.” Id. at 5, 6. As a result, when the court is presented with two or more guardianship petitions that meet the statutory requirements under Idaho Code §§ 15-5-204 to -207, the court must appoint as guardian the sole petitioner whose appointment would be in the child’s best interest. The other petitions must be dismissed.