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In the Interest of G.A.

December 12, 2012

IN THE INTEREST OF G.A., MINOR CHILD, R.A.E., PETITIONER, J.J.A., FATHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wright County, James A. McGlynn, Associate Juvenile Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mullins, J.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3) (2011). AFFIRMED.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3) (2011). While the father does not dispute that he failed to maintain regular contact with the child, he contends termination was inappropriate because the mother prevented visitation, and termination is not in the child's best interests. We affirm.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

The parties have one child together, G.A. (born March 2006). On or about February 1, 2007, the parties ended their two-year relationship and stopped living together. Since then, G.A. has been in the mother's sole physical care.

At some point in 2007, the mother began a relationship with her present husband. The mother and G.A. moved into his home in March 2009. He is willing to adopt G.A. pending the outcome of the termination proceedings.

The father has an extensive criminal history, including a conviction for the manufacture of methamphetamine. During his relationship with the mother and while living with G.A., the father used drugs, including methamphetamine and marijuana. At the time of these proceedings, the father had been indicted on federal criminal charges for possessing a firearm as a felon and was facing eight to ten years in prison, if convicted.

The last time the father visited G.A. was in January 2009. At that time the father arrived at the mother's home unannounced at four o'clock in the morning. The mother thought he was "really drunk." The mother testified, "He was bouncing all over the house, kept trying to blare music, and wanted me to wake up and hang out with him." Meanwhile, G.A. was sleeping. The father called a friend for a ride home. G.A. woke up before the father left, so the father took G.A. and left the house with the friend. The mother attempted repeated telephone calls to the father to make sure G.A. was safe. The father finally returned her calls when he was in Fort Dodge with G.A.'s paternal grandmother. Although the father was scheduled to work that night, he told the mother he would call in sick and requested to have G.A. spend the night. The mother consented. However, she subsequently learned that the father went to work that night at a local bar and left G.A. in the care of a woman whom she had never met. The mother immediately drove to pick up G.A.

The father's next contact with G.A. was in the spring of 2009 while he retrieved personal belongings from the mother's home. He arrived at the mother's home with a friend. He did not visit with G.A. beyond the time it took to load his belongings into his friend's vehicle. The mother testified that G.A. was sad after the visit.

The father contacted the mother in September 2009 and requested a visit with G.A. The mother replied, "[It has] been a really long time and the last time you saw [G.A., the visit did not] go very well, so you need to call. You need to ask how [G.A. is] doing." The father did not call G.A.

In September 2009, the mother began documenting text messages from the father. Since that time, the father sent occasional text messages to the mother. In April 2010, the mother texted the father, noting that he was falling behind on his child support, and asked, "[d]o you want to terminate your parental rights?" Almost five weeks later, on May 10, 2010, he responded asking to see his daughter. That same day several text messages were exchanged. The mother requested the father start communication with G.A. slowly, suggesting he place a phone call to G.A. He did not initiate a call to G.A. or the mother, or take any further steps to make contact with G.A. at that time. At trial, the mother testified she placed this condition on visitation because the father had not seen G.A. in over a year before that visitation request.

On October 4, 2010, he texted the mother asking to see G.A., and added "or do [I] have to file papers for supervised visits to start[?]" The next day they exchanged texts during which mother requested the father provide a clean drug test, either urine or hair follicle, before exercising visitation. He never complied with that request, nor did he initiate any other efforts to visit or communicate with G.A. at that time.

On February 11, 2011, the mother filed a petition to terminate the father's parental rights. The mother alleged grounds for termination based on the father's failure to ...


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