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In the Interest of D.M.M.

May 15, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF D.M.M., MINOR CHILD, H.M., MOTHER, PETITIONER, D.G., FATHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Terry R. Rickers, Judge.

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

A father appeals from the termination of his parental rights. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 600A (2011). He contends the mother failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he failed to maintain substantial and continuous contact with the child or that he was ordered to contribute to the child's support and failed to do so without good cause.

Because clear and convincing evidence establishes the father has failed to maintain substantial and continuous contact with the child as provided in Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b), we affirm the termination of the father's parental rights.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The child at issue, D.M.M., was born in 2008. The child's parents are both drug addicts who met at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in 2006. The father was born addicted to heroin and has struggled with addiction issues his entire adult life. The mother ended her relationship with the father because he was unable to maintain sobriety.

The father had sporadic contact with the child after birth and did not provide support for the child. In November 2008, the mother and father agreed to an informal visitation schedule whereby the father would have three two-hour, supervised visits with the child per week. In January 2009, the father filed a petition for temporary visitation, but failed to attend the May 2009 hearing on his petition.

In June 2009, the mother and father entered into a stipulated temporary visitation agreement. The father agreed to supervised visitation and was ordered to pay $126.68 per month in child support. The visitation was contingent upon the father testing negative for drugs within twenty-four hours of the visitation. Between the entry of the visitation agreement and April 2010, the father did not have regular contact with the child due to drug relapses or arrests.

In April 2010, the mother filed an application for a rule to show cause because of the father's failure to pay child support. The father was found in contempt for failing to pay child support.

In October 2010, the mother married. The mother and father entered a stipulated custody agreement, which provided the child would reside with the mother in Colorado. The father's visitation rights were contingent upon his sobriety, with his visitation increasing after every six months of demonstrated sobriety. The father would achieve maximum visitation rights after demonstrating two years of continuous sobriety. The father's child support obligation was set at $100 per month.

The father saw the child in November and December of 2010 and made child support payments those months. But while in Colorado for his visit, he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. He was jailed during his scheduled visit in January 2011. The father contacted the mother on March 27, 2011, stating he was out of jail and that day was his new "sobriety date." The father relapsed and contacted the mother on May 21, 2011, giving her a new "sobriety date" of May 19, 2011. He did not visit the child until July 2011. The father also had a visit with the child in August 2011. He has not seen the child since that date.

The father did not make any child support payments after December 2010. The mother moved back to Iowa in April 2011, and in June 2011 she requested a sentencing hearing on the 2010 contempt finding against the father for his failure to pay child support.

The father, in response, filed a petition seeking to have the mother found in contempt for allegedly depriving him of visitation and communication with the child. A consolidated hearing was held in April 2012 on the mother's request for imposition of the suspended jail sentence for the father's prior contempt and the father's contempt application. The court found the father failed to purge the contempt and ordered the father to be jailed for thirty days, with twenty days suspended. The court also dismissed the father's contempt action, ...


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