By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a woman and her parents in a guardianship dispute that saw the three take the woman’s child to South Dakota without the knowledge of the child’s co-guardians.
Justices on Tuesday ruled in favor of Diona Palu and her parents Brandon and Diane McArthur, finding that the co-guardians of the child, Kevin and Darcy Guille, did not offer sufficient evidence that Palu should be declared an unfit parent.
Justices said because there was limited information on the case as it was argued in state district court in Cheyenne, they had to assume the lower court’s decision was correct.
“To assess whether the district court’s parental fitness finding is contrary to the great weight of the evidence, we need a transcript or statement of evidence,” said the opinion, written by Justice Lynne Boomgaarden. “… (The) record contains neither. Consequently, we cannot consider the court’s finding in light of the evidence as a whole, and must instead presume the court’s parental fitness finding is correct.”
The ruling stems from an agreement between Palu and the Guilles in June 2020 appointing the Guilles as co-guardians for Palu’s child, identified only as DEP.
According to the ruling, the Guilles, who had been the child’s day care provider, said the guardianship was established because Palu “had been unavailable to parent the child, using drugs, experiencing mental health problems, acting irresponsibly and unemployed.”
In December 2020, the Guilles allowed Palu and her parents to take DEP Christmas shopping.
“Instead of returning the child to the Guilles after the visit, mother and the McArthurs returned to their home in South Dakota with the child,” the ruling said. “Then they sent the Guilles a letter explaining their decision. The letter made clear they had no intention to return the child.”
The Guilles asked the state district court to require the child’s return, while Palu asked that the Guilles’ co-guardianship of her child be terminated.
The Guilles said they were concerned about the child because Palu had previously neglected her parental duties. But the lower court found that Palu’s situation had changed significantly since the guardianship agreement was made, leaving her fit to be a parent.
Justices said there was insufficient evidence to prove otherwise.
“The district court implicitly found that mother established the guardianship was no longer necessary for the reason it had been established,” the ruling said. “The court also implicitly determined that the Guilles failed to prove mother was unfit, as she ‘(had) a safe and stable place to live with the child,’ was employed and was ‘engaged in counseling to help with mental health related issues.’”
As a result, the justices upheld the state district court’s decision.