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In re H.H.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF H.H. AND N.H., Minor Children, N.H., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Virginia Cobb, District Associate Judge.

A mother appeals an order suspending visitation with her two children.

Jesse A. Macro Jr. of Gaudineer, Comito & George, L.L.P., West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, Wayne Reisetter, County Attorney, and Sean Weiser, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Steven Clarke, West Des Moines, for appellee father.

Victoria Meade, West Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

VAITHESWARAN, J.

A mother appeals an order suspending visitation with her two children, born in 2007 and 2009.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

This proceeding began in July 2012, with the discovery that the mother was using drugs. The children were removed from her care and placed in several homes before being adjudicated in need of assistance in December 2012. At that point, the department of human services transferred the children to a pre-adoptive foster home. Within two weeks of the transfer, the foster mother scheduled the older child for an appointment with a therapist. After five visits over a five-week period, the therapist advised the department by letter that "contact [with the parents] is not to [the older child's] benefit." She stated, "I would like to see his parents complete mental health evaluations prior to any further contact with [the older child]."

In light of the therapist's recommendation, the children's guardian ad litem asked the district court to suspend the parents' one-hour-a-week supervised visits with the children. Around the same time, the mother advised the court that the department was "not complying with what was agreed." The district court temporarily suspended the visits and scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the guardian ad litem's request and the mother's assertion. Following the hearing, the court confirmed that the suspension of visits would continue. The court stated there was "a material change in circumstances of the well-being of the children that warrants a modification of dispositional order, specifically, that visitation with the parents be suspended." The court additionally stated it was "in the best interest of the children to do so, " reasoning that "[t]he children's negative behaviors and stressors caused by the chaos in the visits with the parents are detrimental to the children's mental health at this time." This appeal followed.

II. Analysis

Iowa Code section 232.103 (2013), governing the modification of dispositional orders, authorizes a court to modify a dispositional order "for good cause shown." Iowa Code § 232.103(1), (5). We have stated "the party seeking modification must first prove a substantial change in material circumstances, and that under the new conditions, a change is in the best interests of the child or children." In re D.G., 704 N.W.2d 454, 458 (Iowa Ct. App. ...


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