IN THE INTEREST OF B.T. and B.T., Minor Children, C.T., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt,
District Associate Judge.
father appeals the juvenile court order terminating his
parental rights to his two daughters. AFFIRMED.
P. Graves of Graves Law Firm, P.C., Clive, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. White of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his
parental rights to his two daughters, now ages six and eight.
He contends the juvenile court should have opted not to
terminate his rights because the girls were placed with
relatives. He also raises a due-process issue. Finding no
merit in either claim, we affirm the court's termination
of the father's parental rights.
and Jennifer had two daughters, born in 2008 and 2011. The
girls, B.T. and B.T., were removed from their parents'
care and adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA)
in July 2015 after they witnessed Cory assaulting Jennifer.
The family had been involved with services offered through
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) since 2014,
following a previous incident of domestic violence. Cory
acknowledges a history of substance abuse and criminal
and B.T. lived with their paternal great-grandparents during
the fourteen-month duration of the CINA case. According to
the DHS social workers, neither Cory nor Jennifer made
significant progress toward reunification during that time.
In March 2016, their maternal grandparents-who lived in
Illinois- successfully moved to intervene in the case. In
June 2016, the State filed a petition seeking to terminate
the parental rights of both Cory and Jennifer. In August
2016, child-welfare officials in Illinois completed a
favorable home study for the girls' maternal grandparents
under the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC).
juvenile court scheduled a hearing for September 6, 2016. On
that day, Cory was incarcerated at the Polk County jail on
charges of operating while intoxicated, driving under
suspension, and probation revocation. Due to a scheduling
error, he was not transported in time for the beginning of
the hearing, which started at 8:42 a.m. Cory's
attorney asked to delay the hearing until his client arrived,
but the court declined. Before Cory's arrival, the court
took testimony from the maternal grandparents concerning
their request for placement. After Cory arrived at 9:45 a.m.,
he testified to not being able to resume custody of his
daughters for at least ten months because of his criminal
sanctions. Cory told the court he wanted B.T. and B.T. to
stay with their paternal great-grandparents but acknowledged
their maternal grandparents had been supportive of the
family, even if from a distance. The guardian ad litem spoke
in favor of termination of parental rights. The hearing ended
at 10:54 a.m.
September 7, 2016, the court issued an order continuing
placement with the paternal great-grandparents until
September 30 and then modifying placement to the home of the
maternal grandparents starting October 1. The next day,
Cory's attorney filed motions challenging the placement
order. On September 29, the juvenile court denied Cory's
motions, explaining it had granted the paternal
great-grandparents' request to intervene and the two sets
of grandparents had reached "an agreement between
themselves" to maintain "familial connections"
for B.T. and B.T. The court believed "any and all issues
associated with fairness and representation are
rectified." Cory's attorney tried to appeal the
placement order, but the supreme court deemed the ruling
interlocutory and denied review in November 2016.
December 2016, the juvenile court issued its order
terminating parental rights, basing its termination of
Cory's parental rights on Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f)
(2016). On appeal, Cory does not challenge the
statutory basis for termination. In the absence of a
challenge, the ground for termination remains in place.
See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010).
petition on appeal, Cory argues that because his daughters
were originally in the care of their paternal
great-grandparents and later placed with their maternal
grandparents, Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a) provided the
court the option of not terminating parental rights. Section
232.116(3)(a) states the "court need not terminate the
relationship between the parent and child if the court finds
. . . [a] relative has legal custody of the child." But
the girls were not in the "legal custody" of their
relatives when placed there by the DHS. See In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 113 (Iowa 2014). And even if they
had been in the legal custody of relatives, the discretion to
forego termination on that ground lies with the juvenile
court. Id. Here, the juvenile court appropriately
exercised its discretion in deciding that moving forward with
termination of the parents' rights and adoption by the
maternal grandparents was in the best interests of these
children. The record showed the girls suffered emotional and