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In re I.M.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF I.M.H., Minor child, B.E.R., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, J.E.J.H., Father, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Jennifer S. Bailey, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          Jeffrey L. Powell of The Law Office of Jeffrey L. Powell, P.L.C., Washington, for appellant father.

          Curtis R. Dial of Law Office of Curtis Dial, Keokuk, for appellee mother.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         A father appeals from the termination of his parental rights. Upon our de novo review, see In re M.M.S., 502 N.W.2d 4, 5 (Iowa 1993), we find clear and convincing evidence supports termination under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3) (2016), and we conclude severing the child's relationship with her biological father serves the child's best interests. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The mother and the father were never married and were in a relationship from 2005 to 2007. A child, I.H., was born to the couple in 2007. The parents broke up a few months after the child was born. The child remained with the mother, and the father would assist with child care while the mother worked second shift at a hospital. In May 2008, visitations between the father and the child were denied by the mother at the direction of the Iowa Department of Human Services due to an ongoing investigation, which ended with an unfounded child abuse report. On three or four occasions in 2008, the father visited the child at her babysitter's home. These visits ceased when the mother found out and changed babysitters. The father has had no meaningful contact with the child since then.

         After 2008, the father ceased making requests for visits, but sent an occasional text to the mother requesting she tell the child "Happy Birthday" or "Merry Christmas." The text messages stopped in 2010. In 2012, the mother filed a termination-of-parental-rights action. The petition was denied by the juvenile court in 2013, and this court affirmed the denial. See In re I.M.H., No. 13-0324, 2014 WL 1228376, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2014). Since that action, the father has made no attempts at contacting the child or the mother.

         The mother filed the present action for termination of parental rights in March 2016. After a hearing, the juvenile court granted the mother's petition. The court found clear and convincing evidence established that the father had abandoned the child pursuant to Iowa Code sections 600A.8(3)(b) and .8(4). Further, the court found termination of the father's parental rights was in the best interests of the child.

         The father appeals.[1] He contends the juvenile court erred in determining that there was sufficient evidence to establish he abandoned the child in accordance with section 600A.8(3)(b).[2] While this court is not bound by the district court's factual findings when reviewing the record de novo, we give weight to them, especially when considering credibility of witnesses. See In re R.K.B., 572 N.W.2d 600, 601 (Iowa 1998).

         II. Discussion.

         A. ...


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