IN THE INTEREST OF M.K.R., Minor Child, K.R., Mother, Petitioner-Appellant, B.Y., Father, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Jennifer
S. Bailey, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the district court's order denying her
petition under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3) (2016) to
terminate the father's parental rights to their minor
child and the court's admission of an affidavit during
the trial. AFFIRMED.
L. Miller and Sarah S. James of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C.,
Mt. Pleasant, for appellant mother.
pro se appellee father.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.
mother appeals the district court's ruling denying her
request to terminate the father's parental rights of M.R.
on the basis (1) statutory grounds to establish termination
were met, and (2) termination is in M.R.'s best
interests. The mother initiated this action under Iowa Code
section 600A.8(3) (2016) in April 2016. The mother also
claimed the district court erred in admitting the affidavit
of her paramour. Although the statutory grounds for
termination were met, termination is not in the best
interests of M.R. The district court also properly admitted
the affidavit. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
parties to this private-termination action are the natural
mother and father of M.R., born in 2009. The parties were
never married, and they separated in 2008 before M.R.'s
birth. M.R. has resided with the mother since birth and
currently lives with the mother and her paramour, Samuel.
M.R. knows Samuel as her father. Both the mother and father
have other children unrelated to this action.
in 2008, both the mother and the father were charged with
theft. According to testimony, both parties received a
deferred judgment. However, the father testified he was
incarcerated for seven days for contempt related to failing
to pay restitution for the theft. The record does not show
any additional criminal activity.
father has never had meaningful contact with M.R., nor has he
provided any economic contributions. Despite the father's
limited contact with M.R., he has attempted to communicate
with the mother and her family about M.R. since the
child's birth. On or around the mother's due date for
M.R., the father testified he called the mother to inquire
about the pregnancy, but the mother told the father M.R. was
not yet born even though the father could hear a baby crying
in the background. Between 2010 and 2011, the father sent
multiple letters to the mother's family requesting to
meet M.R.; the letters were returned with the inscription,
"Do not send mail here." The father testified he
sent the letters to the mother's family because he did
not know her location. In 2013, the father initiated
communications with the mother through Facebook about
establishing a relationship with M.R. In 2014, the father
again attempted to communicate with the mother through
Facebook asking the mother to let M.R. meet her paternal
grandfather, as his health was fading. He made multiple
requests in 2014 and another request between 2015 and the
trial date to see M.R. The mother's testimony indicates
that she saw the messages. However, all of the messages went
unanswered. The father even attempted to contact Samuel in
2015 through Facebook.
April 2016, the mother filed a petition to terminate the
father's parental rights, pursuant to Iowa Code section
600A.8(3). At trial, the father offered Samuel's
affidavit from a custody proceeding between Samuel and the
mother regarding their minor child. The relevant part of the
[M.R.] doesn't know her own father and he has not been
allowed into her life. It is my understating that he has made
attempts to be involved in her life, but [the mother]
won't allow him to do it. I fear that she is now doing
that with me to alienate me from my daughter's life.
district court initially denied the father's request to
admit the affidavit, noting the father could call Samuel as a
witness during his case-in-chief to elicit the information
stated in the affidavit-at that time, Samuel was present in
the courtroom. By the time the father attempted to call
Samuel as a witness, he was unable to locate
The district court admitted the affidavit over the
mother's objections for "what value may be evinced
from the actual paragraph on page 3 [listed above]. The rest
of the document will be admitted to simply show who signed it
and under what circumstances."
guardian ad litem's (GAL) report to the court, the GAL
requested "to reserve recommendation until she has heard
the information which comes before the court in the form of
testimony and admitted evidence." The GAL made its oral
recommendation to the court during the trial. She stated:
This minor child is well into growing. She is in second grade
now. She has been without [the father], and he has made no
attempts to provide support for her. I find that very
concerning. It starts to make me question as to whether or
not-other than on the rare occasions he'd make contact by
Facebook-if she was a ...