IN THE INTEREST OF J.C.P.S. and A.M.S.S., Minor Children, C.S., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Monona County, Timothy T. Jarman, District Associate Judge.
A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
Daniel P. Vakulskas of Vakulskas Law Firm, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Jensen, County Attorney, and Ian A. McConeghey, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Marchelle Denker, Sioux City, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two of her children, A.S. (born 2007) and J.S. (born 2009). The mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the termination and also asserts the termination was not in the children's best interests. The juvenile court terminated the mother's rights to both children under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), and (l) (2013). The juvenile court also terminated the mother's rights with respect to J.S. under section 232.116(1)(h). "When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we need only find grounds to terminate under one of the sections cited by the juvenile court to affirm." In re S.R., 600 N.W.2d 63, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 1999). Here, we focus on the evidence supporting the court's termination of the mother's parental rights under section 232.116(1)(b).
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b) provides the court can order the termination of a parent's rights with respect to a child if "[t]he court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence that the child has been abandoned or deserted." "Abandonment of a child" under the juvenile justice chapter has been defined as:
[T]he relinquishment or surrender, without reference to any particular person, of the parental rights, duties, or privileges inherent in the parent-child relationship. Proof of abandonment must include both the intention to abandon and the acts by which the intention is evidenced. The term does not require that the relinquishment or surrender be over any particular period of time.
Iowa Code § 232.2(1). On appeal, the mother claims there was not clear and convincing evidence of her intention to abandon her children. While she admits she left the children in Onawa in the care of her grandmother, the great-grandmother of the children, the mother asserts it was always her intention to return to collect the children once she obtained stable housing and employment in Omaha. She also asserts the evidence showed she would call the children and visit them occasionally while she was away. Thus, she claims there is not sufficient proof she abandoned the children.
We need not address the issue of the mother's intent to abandon the children because the mother's parental rights can be terminated under section 232.116(1)(b) if there is clear and convincing evidence she deserted the children. "Desertion" has been defined as:
[T]he relinquishment or surrender for a period in excess of six months of the parental rights, duties, or privileges inherent in the parent-child relationship. Proof of desertion need not include the intention to desert, but is evidenced by the lack of attempted contact with the child or by only incidental contact with the child.
Id. § 232.2(14). Desertion does not require the proof of the intention to desert, but we look to see whether there was a lack of an attempt to contact the children or only incidental ...