Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Russell G. Keast, District Associate Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Danilson, J.
A mother appeals from the denial of her petition to terminate the father's parental rights. AFFIRMED.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
The child, C.M.F., was born in October 2008. The mother and father were never married. The father resided with the child and the mother for the first three months of the child's life and then did not see the child between December 2009 and April 2010. A support and visitation order was entered in April 2010. The father did exercise visits for a few months and then did not see the child between December 2010 and March 2011. The father then saw the child for one week per month in June, July, and August 2011.
The mother sought the termination of the father's parental rights, and at the time of the June 2012 termination trial, the father had not seen his child since August 2011. The guardian ad litem recommended termination of the father's parental rights, as did the father's own mother.
The father resisted the termination petition. He appeared at the termination hearing and testified he had recently had emotional difficulties due to past trauma, but was attempting to address those difficulties; he loved his child; and he was working to pay off past financial obligations and to obtain a suitable residence. Two years before the trial in this action, the father initiated an action to establish joint custody, visitation and reduce his child support. Until his emotional difficulties, he was visiting the child. He also continued to pay child support to the date of the trial. We affirm as there is not clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the child's best interests at this time.
II. Scope and Standard of Review.
"We review de novo termination proceedings under chapter 600A." In re C.A.V., 787 N.W.2d 96, 99 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010). We give weight to the factual findings of the juvenile court, but are not bound by them. Id.
A district court is empowered to terminate parental rights upon a petition by a parent. Iowa Code §§ 600A.5(1)(a), 600A.9 (2011); see In re R.K.B., 572 N.W.2d 600, 601 (Iowa 1998). Abandonment provides grounds for ordering the termination of parental rights:
b. If the child is six months of age or older when the termination hearing is held, a parent is deemed to have abandoned the child unless the parent maintains substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child as demonstrated by contribution toward support of the child of a reasonable amount, according to the parent's means, and as demonstrated by any of the following:
(1) Visiting the child at least monthly when physically and financially able to do so and when not prevented from doing so by the person having lawful custody of the child.
(2) Regular communication with the child or with the person having the care or custody of the child, when physically and financially unable to visit the child or when prevented from visiting the ...