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Cory Maruna v. Samantha E. Peters and Kimberly R. Orade

March 13, 2013

CORY MARUNA, PETITIONER/APPELLEE,
v.
SAMANTHA E. PETERS AND KIMBERLY R. ORADE, RESPONDENTS/APPELLANTS. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF JACQUELINE RAELENE HARPER, WARD.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clayton County, John J. Bauercamper, Judge.

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

The grandmother and mother of a minor child appeal a district court order terminating the grandmother's guardianship of the child and placing her in the physical care of her father. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

A mother and grandmother of a minor child appeal a district court order terminating the grandmother's guardianship over the child and placing the child in the physical care of her father.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Cory Maruna and Samantha Peters are the unmarried parents of a child, born in 2005. At the time of the child's birth, the young parents had their share of problems. They agreed to place the child in a guardianship with Samantha's mother, Kimberly Orade. The child remained in Kimberly's care and custody from the time she was three weeks old through termination-of-guardianship proceedings in 2012.

When the child was approximately one year old, she was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy that resulted in slight paralysis in her right arm and leg. Kimberly appropriately managed the disorder, taking the child to cerebral palsy clinics every six to twelve months, and massaging her legs to alleviate cramping. She also addressed the child's seizures and severe allergies. Health professionals uniformly praised Kimberly's care of the child.

Over the years, Samantha and Cory matured into responsible adults. Both continued their education and became involved in stable relationships. Samantha, her husband, and another child moved in with Kimberly. Samantha shared household duties with Kimberly and helped care for the child. She also became a full-time college student. Cory married, moved to a town thirty minutes away from Kimberly, obtained a full-time job, and attempted to exercise regular visitation with the child. Initially, he saw her every other Saturday for four to six hours at a time. Pursuant to court order, those visits were later expanded to two-night weekends.

Cory eventually filed a "Petition for Custody" as well as a motion seeking termination of the guardianship and placement of the child with him. The two actions were consolidated.

Following a hearing, the district court granted Cory's requests for termination of the guardianship and physical care of the child. Kimberly and Samantha appealed.*fn1 As Kimberly is the guardian,*fn2 we will refer to her in the balance of the opinion.

II. Analysis

Kimberly raises the following issues: (A) the district court lacked jurisdiction to terminate the guardianship under Iowa Code section 633.679 (2011); (B) the district court should not have applied the parental preference presumption set forth in section 633.559 and should not have placed the burden to rebut that presumption on her; and (C) termination of the guardianship was not in the child's best interests. Our review of these issues is de novo. SeeIowa Code §§ 633.33,600B.40; In re Guardianship of Stewart, 369 N.W.2d 820, 822 (Iowa 1985).

A. Standing-Iowa Code section 633.679

Subject to an exception not applicable here, section 633.679(1) provides that "at any time after the appointment of a guardian or conservator, the person under guardianship or conservatorship may apply to the court by petition, alleging that the person is no longer a proper subject thereof, and asking that the guardianship or conservatorship be terminated." (Emphasis added.) For the first time on appeal, Kimberly argues that the child was the only person who could seek a termination of the guardianship. Based on that premise, she asserts Cory "did not have standing to file his motion for termination of guardianship and the district court lacked jurisdiction to ...


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