IN THE INTEREST OF C.L., Minor Child, T.C., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dickinson County, David C.
Larson, District Associate Judge.
father appeals from the order terminating his parental
AFFIRMED. Thomas E. Bjornstad of Bjornstad Law Office, Spirit
Lake, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Shannon L. Sandy of Sandy Law Firm, P.C., Spirit Lake, for
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
was born in January 2015. The Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) believed J.L and S.L. were the child's
biological father and mother. The parents had an
on-again-off-again relationship until March 2015, when the
couple married. A child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) case for
C.L.'s older siblings was in progress at the time of the
marriage, but the parents appeared to be making progress
toward resolving their several issues. However, after the
parents relapsed into methamphetamine use, DHS filed an
application for temporary removal of C.L. and C.L.'s
older half-siblings on September 15. On October 20, C.L. was
adjudicated a CINA. DHS made reasonable efforts to reunite
the family but those efforts were unsuccessful. During the
course of the CINA cases for the three children it was
discovered J.L. was not the biological father of C.L. and
B.L., an older half-sibling. S.L.'s parental rights to
all three children were terminated. The rights of the
biological fathers of C.L.'s half-siblings were also
actual biological father, T.C., first became aware he might
be the father a few months after C.L.'s birth. T.C.
stated he did not want to get involved and risk disrupting
S.L. and J.L.'s marriage, so he made no effort to
establish paternity or a relationship with the child. T.C.
did not step forward at the time of C.L.'s removal from
the home, though he had the opportunity to do so. In December
2015, T.C. traveled with S.L. to visit her parents, and was
introduced as C.L.'s father. Finally, on June 24, 2016,
paternity was established between T.C. and C.L. T.C.
expressed interest in establishing a relationship with C.L.
However, he refused to comply with drug testing required by
DHS, and visitation was never established. The juvenile court
found T.C. had abandoned and deserted C.L. under Iowa Code
section 232.2(1) and (14) (2016). T.C.'s parental rights
were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b)
and (h) on November 2, 2016. T.C., now appeals.
scope of review is de novo in termination cases. In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). Clear and
convincing evidence is needed to establish the grounds for
termination. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa
2006). Where there is clear and convincing evidence, there is
no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the
conclusion drawn from the evidence. In re D.D., 653
N.W.2d 359, 361 (Iowa 2002). We give weight to the juvenile
court's findings of fact, but are not bound by them.
In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000). The
highest concern in termination proceedings is the best
interests of the children. In re L.L., 459 N.W.2d
489, 493 (Iowa 1990).
does not claim termination was inappropriate under section
232.116(1)(b) and (h). When a ground for termination is not
disputed, we need not consider if termination on that ground
is appropriate. In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa
2010). T.C. claims the State and DHS should have more
diligently searched for him. T.C. claims upon learning J.L.
was not the biological father in December 2015, the State and
DHS should have been required to locate him, and suggested
publishing notice to accomplish this.
Code sections 232.88 and 232.37 establish the notice rules in
CINA proceedings. While we agree with T.C. that the primary
purpose of the notice rules are to notify interested parties
of their opportunity to participate in the proceedings and
receive services, we also find there is no duty for the State
or DHS to shoulder the burden of determining the biological
parent of every child in need of assistance. The notice rules
provide, "notice of the pendency of the case shall be
served upon the known parents, guardians or legal custodians
of a child." Iowa Code § 232.37. T.C. cites no
authority requiring DHS or the State to notify unknown
also claims his paternity was established June 28, 2016, and
the petition for termination of parental rights was filed
July 20, depriving him of "any meaningful services which
may have resulted in re-unification." T.C. does not
challenge the juvenile court's determination he both
abandoned and deserted C.L. and so we need not address this
issue. However, we remind T.C. he was aware of the
possibility of his paternity a few months after C.L.'s
birth. T.C. was informed by the mother he was the biological
father in December 2015. Because of T.C.'s choice,
paternity was not established until June 2016. T.C.
repeatedly chose to avoid responsibility and a relationship
with C.L. until it was convenient for him, and even then,