IN THE INTEREST OF J.H., Minor Child, J.H., Father, Petitioner-Appellee, A.H., Mother, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights.
R. Purcell of Clemens, Walters, Conlon, Runde & Hiatt,
L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.
Patricia M. Reisen-Ottavi of Ottavi Law Firm, Dubuque, for
Victoria D. Noel of Mayer, Lonergan & Rolfes, Clinton,
for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to
her child on the petition of the child's father alleging
the mother abandoned the child pursuant to Iowa Code section
600A.8(3)(b) (2016). The mother contends the juvenile court
erred in finding she abandoned the child, and argues
termination of her parental rights is not in the child's
best interest. We conclude there is clear and convincing
evidence the mother abandoned the child and termination is in
the child's best interest. We therefore affirm.
Background Facts & Proceedings.
child, J.H., was born in 2006 and was ten years old at the
time of the termination hearing. The mother and father were
never married, and they separated shortly after J.H. was
born. Initially, the parties informally agreed J.H. would
live with the mother and the father would have visitation.
However, due to the mother's husband's interference
in visitation, the father filed an action seeking physical
care in 2010. A decree placing physical care with the father
and providing visitation to the mother was entered on April
2013, the department of human services (DHS) became involved
with the mother's family because it was learned the
mother's husband was using and dealing illegal substances
in the family home, one of the children in the home tested
positive for illegal substances, and there were concerns of
domestic violence. The mother's parental rights to her
two other children were terminated in 2015 because the mother
could not protect her children by honoring a no-contact order
and staying away from her husband.
founded child abuse assessment was also completed with
respect to J.H. in 2013. The assessment identified the
mother's husband as the responsible person for denial of
critical care stemming from his use of illegal substances in
J.H.'s presence. J.H.'s father subsequently placed
limitations on the mother's exercise of visitation,
requiring that she not take J.H. to her home or any place
where the mother's husband may be. The father offered
visitation with J.H. at the father's home, at the home of
the mother's parents, and at the home of the father's
parents. The mother testified she felt
"uncomfortable" visiting J.H. at the father's
home. Therefore, at the time of the October 28, 2016
termination hearing, the mother had visited J.H. only twice
since December 2014. The mother had not seen J.H. at all
since the fall of 2015-approximately one year prior to the
termination hearing. Although the mother was provided with
J.H.'s basketball schedule, the mother did not attend any
mother also made only sporadic attempts to communicate with
the father and J.H. The father testified the mother would
sometimes go thirty days without making contact. The father
further testified in the year preceding the termination
hearing, there would be gaps of as long as ninety days in
communication with the mother
also describes of the mother's effort to provide
financial support. The mother was ordered to pay the father
$80 per month in child support, but made inconsistent
payments by way of automatic withholding during periods when
she was employed. Over the period of about five years between
the 2011 decree and ...