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In re D.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF D.S., Minor Child, J.S., Mother, Petitioner-Appellant, C.T., Father, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J. Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order denying her petition to terminate the parental rights of the father. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Jenny L. Weiss of Fuerste, Carew, Juergens & Sudmeier, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

          Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for appellee.

          Kim C. Roddick of Reynolds & Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, guardian ad litem.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         A mother, J.S., appeals the juvenile court order denying her petition to terminate the parental rights of the father, C.T. The parties do not dispute C.T. abandoned the child within the meaning of Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b) (2016). We find the juvenile court improperly concluded termination of C.T.'s parental rights was not in the child's best interests. We conclude the decision of the juvenile court should be reversed and C.T.'s parental rights to D.S. should be terminated.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         J.S. and C.T. are the parents of D.S., born in 2004. J.S. testified when she told C.T. she was pregnant he denied being the father and assaulted her, although she did not press charges. After the child was born, C.T. would call J.S. multiple times a day, sometimes just hanging up and sometimes leaving threatening messages or calling J.S. names. One message stated, "You're dead. I just got out of jail, bitch, and you're next." C.T. was convicted of four counts of harassment. A no-contact order was entered, which was in place for five years. C.T. was in jail, on and off, until January 2008. During this time C.T. was also using illegal drugs.

         C.T. has had very little contact with the child throughout his life. J.S. stated C.T. had not seen the child since he was an infant, while C.T. stated he last saw the child in 2008. Additionally, C.T. has paid very little, if anything, to support the child. J.S. testified she had never received any financial support from C.T. C.T. testified he had given the child a few gifts.

         On March 22, 2016, C.T. filed a petition seeking physical care of the child, with J.S. having visitation. This was very frightening for the child, who was then twelve years old. He was worried he would be taken away from his mother and sent to live with a father he did not know. The child has stated he does not want to meet C.T.

         On April 1, 2016, J.S. filed a petition seeking to terminate C.T.'s parental rights, pursuant to Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b) (abandonment) and (4) (failure to provide financial support). The court appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL), Kim Roddick. After meeting with all of the parties, the GAL wrote a report recommending termination of C.T.'s parental rights. The GAL stated:

I think it is too late. It think it is in the minor's best interest to terminate [C.T.]'s parental rights. The thought of this case has made it difficult for [D.S.] He has been able to maintain his performance in school, but he has found it difficult to concentrate on his physical therapy. If something should happen to [J.S.] it would not be in [D.S.]'s best interest to live with [C.T.] and be separated from his sister. This is one of [J.S.]'s concerns. That is the difference between [J.S.]'s role as a parent and [C.T.]'s role. He has never ...

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