Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Z.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF Z.C. and B.C., Minor Children, J.C., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights.

          C. Frederick Stiefel of Stiefel Law Office, Victor, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer and Janet L. Hoffman (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Troy 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.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         A 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.

         The 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.

         In July 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.[1] 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.

         The 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.[2] 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).

         The 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).

         The 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).

         Section 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.