IN THE INTEREST OF Z.C. and B.C., Minor Children, J.C., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Barbara H.
Liesveld, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals from the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights.
Frederick Stiefel of Stiefel Law Office, Victor, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer and
Janet L. Hoffman (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys
General, for appellee State.
M. Powell of Powell Law Firm, Cedar Rapids, attorney and
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
mother appeals from the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights to her two children: Z.C.,
born in October 2005; and B.C., born in October 2012. She
argues the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for
termination by clear and convincing evidence.
court and the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) were
previously involved with this family when Z.C. was younger
due to concerns Z.C. and the mother's oldest child had
witnessed domestic violence between the parents and had
observed the parents using illegal substances.
2015, DHS became involved with the family again when the
mother reported the father had disabled her car and she was
unable to leave their home. She contacted authorities who
transported her to her mother's home where the children
were already residing because of the escalating violence in
their parents' home. Following this incident, the mother did
not seek a protective order against the father and continued
to maintain contact with him. A week later, the juvenile
court removed the children from parental custody due to
concerns the mother was using methamphetamine and planning to
pick the children up from their grandmother's home with
the father and return them to the parents' home. At the
time of their removal, B.C. was not up-to-date on his shots
and had severe dental issues.
juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to
Z.C. and B.C. pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f)
(2016) as to Z.C., paragraph (h) as to B.C., and paragraph
(l) as to both children. We review termination-of-
parental-rights proceedings de novo. In re M.W., 876
N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). When a court terminates parental
rights on more than one ground, we may affirm the order on
any of the statutory grounds supported by clear and
convincing evidence. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707
(Iowa 2010). "We are not bound by the juvenile
court's findings of fact, but we do give them weight,
especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses."
In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 219 (quoting In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014)). Our primary
consideration is the best interests of the child. In re
J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).
mother claims the State failed to prove the grounds for
termination because the juvenile court terminated the
mother's parental rights to B.C. under Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(h), which requires the court find the child in
issue is three years of age or younger, rather than section
232.116(1)(f), which requires the court find the child in
issue is age four or older. B.C. was three years of age when
the petition to terminate parental rights was filed, but
turned age four less than two weeks before the termination
hearing. The age of a child for purposes of this statute is
determined as of the last date of the termination hearing.
See In re J.A., No. 13-0889, 2013 WL 5758054, at *3
(Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 23, 2013).
State's petition asserts grounds for termination under
paragraphs (a), (e), (f), (h), and (l). The petition
does not specify which paragraphs apply to each child.
"It is well-settled law that a prevailing party can
raise an alternative ground for affirmance on appeal without
filing a notice of cross-appeal, as long as the prevailing
party raised the alternative ground in the district
court." In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 221 (citation
omitted). Moreover, we decline to place form over substance
and waste judicial resources on what was clearly a clerical
error. See generally State v. Hess, 533 N.W.2d 525,
527 (Iowa 1995) ("An error is clerical in nature if it
is not the product of judicial reasoning and
determination."); see also generally State v.
Pearson, 876 N.W.2d 200, 205-06, 207-08 (Iowa 2016)
(discussing nunc pro tunc orders to correct an error in
sentencing and explaining that, because a mistake
"occurred at the original sentencing hearing [that] was
inconsequential to the sentence imposed . . ., there was
absolutely no reason for any court to order resentencing as a
means to fix the mistake. Nor was there any reason for the
mistake to consume the time and expense of two appeals and
now the further review of this court. Nor was the mistake one
that should further require the time and expense of
postconviction relief proceedings"). In its termination
order, the juvenile court found B.C. to be four years of age.
The court applied section 232.116(1)(h) as to B.C. in
terminating the mother's parental rights. Under these
facts and circumstances, the appropriate statutory section is
232.116(1)(f); the juvenile court's reference to section
232.116(1)(h) is clearly a typographical error, which is
harmless given our de novo review. See, e.g., In
re D.L.C., 464 N.W.2d 881, 883 (Iowa 1991) (noting the
juvenile court's error was harmless in light of the de
novo review of the appellate court). Thus, we consider
whether the State proved the grounds for termination as to
both children under paragraph (f).
232.116(1)(f) provides the court may terminate parental
rights if the court finds the State has proved by clear and
convincing evidence the child (1) is four years of age or
older; (2) has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance
(CINA); (3) has been removed from the physical custody of the
parent for at least twelve of the last eighteen months, or
the last twelve consecutive months and any trial period at
home has ...