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In the Interest of R.P. Jr.

February 27, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF R.P. JR., MINOR CHILD, S.T., MOTHER, APPELLANT, R.P. SR., FATHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

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

A mother and father appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., Potterfield, J., and Mahan, S.J.* *Senior judge assigned by order pursuant to Iowa Code section 602.9206 (2013).

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

Richard and Stacy are the parents of R.P., who was born in August 2011. Both parents have long histories of substance abuse and criminal conduct.*fn1 The child was removed from the mother's care shortly after birth and placed in foster care. After leaving the hospital the mother was required to return to jail, where she was serving time due to a parole violation. The child was adjudicated to be in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (n) (2011).

Richard had a hair test that was positive for methamphetamine. He admitted he had been using methamphetamine daily until the child was born. In October 2011, Richard was charged with first-degree murder, and he spent much of the duration of the juvenile court proceedings in jail awaiting trial on that charge. Stacy was released in the fall of 2011. Stacy participated in supervised visits with the child. She did not make any progress in services. She continued her relationship with Richard through telephone calls and text messages.

In January 2012, the parents separately filed motions for a hearing on reasonable efforts. Richard argued the Iowa Department of Human Services should have done more to place the child in the care of the paternal grandmother in Nebraska. Stacy raised the same issue and also requested increased visitation with the child. After a hearing, the juvenile court denied the motions. The court found the amount of visitation provided to the mother was reasonable based on her locale, recent release, parole status, and continuing relationship with Richard. Also, the Department was proceeding with an Interstate Compact to determine if the child could be placed with the paternal grandmother.

On March 30, 2012, the State filed a petition seeking to terminate the parents' rights. Richard filed a motion to continue based on his pending criminal charge. The juvenile court continued the matter from May 2012 until July 2012. The paternal grandmother's motion to intervene was granted. A home study completed in May 2012 showed the child could be placed with the paternal grandmother. At that time the Department was still attempting to reunite the child with the mother, so the child was not moved.

Richard was acquitted of the murder charge in July 2012. Richard and Stacy immediately reunited after he was released from jail. A few days later, however, they got into an argument while they were driving down the freeway, and Richard forcibly made Stacy get out of the car, leaving her stranded beside the freeway in the dark. At the termination hearing held on July 31, 2012, however, they presented themselves as a couple and asked to have the child placed in their care. The hearing was not completed and was continued to a later date.

In October 2012, Richard pleaded guilty in Nebraska to a drug charge and was placed on probation. He moved to Nebraska. Also, in October 2012, Stacy returned to jail for parole violations, including a positive drug test. The termination hearing was completed on November 16, 2012. Stacy remained in custody at that time. During his testimony Richard bragged that he had never lost a fistfight and stated, "I'm about as tough as they get," and "I've fought tons of people." Also, when asked if he was ready to have the child placed in his care, Richard replied, "Kind of," and explained that he was just starting a job and needed to save money. At the end of the hearing, the court placed the child in the care of the paternal grandmother.

The juvenile court entered an order on November 30, 2012, terminating the parents' rights. The court terminated Richard's parental rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(h). Stacy's parental rights were terminated pursuant to sections 232.116(1)(d), (g), and (h). The court noted Stacy was unable to stay out of prison and she was unable to meet the child's needs. The court also found the child could not be safely placed in Richard's care and he was unable to meet the child's needs. Richard and Stacy have separately appealed the juvenile court order terminating their parental rights.

II. Standard of Review.

The scope of review in termination cases is de novo. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). Clear and convincing evidence is needed to establish the grounds for termination. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006). Where there is clear and convincing evidence, there is no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the conclusion drawn from the evidence. In re D.D., 653 N.W.2d 359, 361 (Iowa 2002). "The paramount concern in ...


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