IN THE INTEREST OF D.S., Minor Child, J.S., Mother, Petitioner-Appellant, C.T., Father, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the juvenile court order denying her petition
to terminate the parental rights of the father. REVERSED AND
L. Weiss of Fuerste, Carew, Juergens & Sudmeier, P.C.,
Dubuque, for appellant.
G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for
Roddick of Reynolds & Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, guardian
by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.
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.
Background Facts & Proceedings
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
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.
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.
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 ...