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In re E.M.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF E.M., A.M., AND A.M., Minor Children,
v.
S.J., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Audubon County, Susan L. Christensen, District Associate Judge.

A mother appeals from a child in need of assistance review/modification order terminating concurrent jurisdiction and ordering supervised visitation.

Andrew J. Knuth of Knuth Law Office, Atlantic, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, and Francine O'Brien Andersen, County Attorney, for appellee State.

James Tinker, Audubon, for appellee father.

Karen Mailander, Anita, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

POTTERFIELD, P.J.

A mother appeals from a child in need of assistance (CINA) review/modification order. She argues the court's decision to continue the CINA proceeding and revoke the previously granted concurrent jurisdiction was improper, and the court should not have ordered supervised visitation with her children. We affirm, finding both parts of the order are in the children's best interests.

I. Facts and Proceedings.

The mother's three children were adjudicated CINA in April 2012 due to conflict between the mother and father. The two are no longer a couple but have a highly contentious relationship. The children, ages six to eleven, were placed in the physical care of their father by a district court order and remained there throughout the proceedings. Prior to the CINA adjudication, thirty-eight reports of abuse had been made regarding the children to the department of human services (DHS). At least two of the claims were founded against the mother, including a report of domestic abuse between her and her husband. The rest of the reports were unfounded. The mother also was denied at least two protective orders against the father when the district court dismissed her petitions for a lack of evidence at trial.

At a September 2012 CINA review hearing, the court noted the parents were improving their communication and the children seemed to agree. However, before the January 18, 2013 permanency hearing, the parents' behavior worsened again. The court noted the parents continued to fight and their relationship degraded. The mother requested concurrent jurisdiction to pursue an action in district court for modification of the dissolution decree regarding custody of the children. The juvenile court granted concurrent jurisdiction but noted the court's CINA orders regarding custody and visitation would continue regardless of any contrary ruling by the district court.

A dispositional review hearing was held May 7, 2013. The mother again had made an unfounded report of abuse against the father with DHS. The mother requested the juvenile court dismiss the CINA proceeding (ending the juvenile court's jurisdiction) in light of the dispute in district court. DHS also recommended dismissal of the CINA proceeding because its services were not resulting in long-term progress. The guardian ad litem disagreed, arguing continuing the CINA proceeding was necessary to protect the children despite the parent's lack of progress and that the children should be placed with neutral third-parties. Finally, the State argued for continuing the CINA proceeding and sole juvenile court jurisdiction to ensure the children would continue to have a guardian ad litem.[1] The court concluded dismissal of the CINA proceeding in juvenile court was against the children's best interests, as the mother's false reports and supervised visitation could be more carefully monitored in juvenile court than in district court.

The court revoked its previous grant of concurrent jurisdiction and ordered the mother's visitation to be supervised to minimize contact between the mother and father. The mother appeals from ...


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