IN THE INTEREST OF M.B.W., I.M.W., and J.L.W.-S., Minor Children, E.A.W., Mother, Petitioner, B.M.S., Father of J.L.W.-S., Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
A father appeals the termination of his parental rights under Iowa Code chapter 600A (2011).
Mary Baird Krafka of Krafka Law Office, Ottumwa, for appellant.
Heather M. Simplot of Harrison, Moreland, Webber & Simplot, P.C., Ottumwa, for appellee.
Jeffrey Logan of Curran Law Office, Ottumwa, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
After maintaining only "sporadic" contact with his three children and failing to fulfill his financial obligation to them, Brian appeals the juvenile court's termination of his parental rights. He claims insufficient evidence supports the finding of abandonment under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3) (2011). He also alleges termination runs counter to the children's best interests.
Because Brian does not challenge the court's second basis for termination—his failure to pay court ordered support under section 600A.8(4)— we affirm on that ground. We also believe the children's best interests are served by severing their legal ties to Brian.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
Elizabeth and Brian were married in September 2006 and divorced about fifteen months later, in December 2007. They are the parents of three children: M.W. born in 2004, J.W.-S. born in 2007, and I.W. born in 2008. The divorce decree granted Elizabeth physical care of the children and ordered Brian to pay $408.47 per month in child support beginning in January 2008.
Brian has a history of substance abuse, mental illness, and incarceration. His criminal record includes felony convictions for conspiracy to commit willful injury and burglary. In 2008, his probation was revoked and he was assigned to a halfway house. He was released in December 2008, but was re-arrested that same month.
Elizabeth described Brian's contact with the children in 2009 as "very sporadic" because he was in and out of "[j]ail and town, and he wasn't around a whole lot." Brian returned to prison in August 2009. At that time, he asked that his child support obligation be reduced to $30 per month, $10 for each child. The court modified the child support order on January 25, 2010. At the time of the termination hearing, Brian's outstanding child support obligation was $9392.79.
When Brian was released from prison in May 2010, he did not establish regular contact with his children. Brian's last visit with his children was in July 2010. Brian returned to prison again in August 2010, where he remained until April 2012. Brian sent the children four or five ...