IN THE INTEREST OF K.L., M.L., and O.S., Minor Children, K.L., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2016).
R. Purcell of Clemens, Walters, Conlon, Runde & Hiatt,
L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Patricia M. Reisen-Ottavi of Ottavi Law Firm, Dubuque,
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
is a scourge. This is yet another appeal from an order
terminating the parental rights of a long-time user. In this
case, the juvenile court terminated Kara's parental
rights in her three children pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(g) and (l) (2016). At the time of the
termination hearing, the mother was in jail after being
charged with child endangerment after two of the children at
issue tested positive for methamphetamine. On appeal, the
mother does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence
establishing the grounds for termination of her parental
rights. Instead, she contends the juvenile court should have
granted her more time to reunify with the children, and she
contends the juvenile court should have forwent termination
of her parental rights due to the strength of the
review proceedings terminating parental rights de novo."
In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014) (citing
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010)). The
statutory framework is well established. Pursuant to section
232.116(1), the State must prove a statutory ground
authorizing the termination of a parent's rights. See
In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa 2010). Second,
pursuant to section 232.116(2), the State must prove
termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the
child. See id. Third, if the State has proved both
the existence of statutory harm and termination of a
parent's rights is in the best interest of the child, the
juvenile court must consider whether any countervailing
considerations set forth in section 232.116(3) should
nonetheless preclude termination of parental rights. See
id. These countervailing considerations are permissive,
not mandatory. See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at 113.
court has discretion, based on the unique circumstances of
each case and the best interests of the child, whether to
apply the factors in this section to save the parent-child
relationship." In re D.S., 806 N.W.2d 458, 475
(Iowa Ct. App. 2011) (citing In re C.L.H., 500
N.W.2d 449, 454 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993)).
contends the district court should have deferred permanency
for an additional six months to afford her more time to seek
reunification with her children. To defer permanency for six
months, the juvenile court was required to "enumerate
the specific factors, conditions, or expected behavioral
changes which comprise the basis for the determination that
the need for removal of the child[ren] from the
child[ren]'s home will no longer exist at the end of the
additional six-month period." Iowa Code §
232.104(2)(b). Among other things, there are two salient
facts that lead us to conclude the causes giving rise to
removal will not be resolved by the end of the additional
Kara has demonstrated a long history of involvement in
violent and otherwise inappropriate relationships posing an
appreciable risk of adjudicatory harm to the children.
Throughout the course of this proceeding, Kara was instructed
to cease contact with her abusive paramour, but she refused
to do so. Neighbors heard consistent arguing and fighting
between Kara and her paramour, who was not supposed to be
present in the home, in the presence of the children. On at
least one occasion, the paramour physically abused Kara in
front of the children. When the paramour was incarcerated for
a different assault on Kara, she brought other men into the
home, one of whom overdosed in the home. In similar
circumstances, we have concluded the termination of a
parent's rights was warranted. See, e.g., In re
I.M., No. 16-0685, 2016 WL 4036256, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App.
July 27, 2016) ("A child cannot be returned to the care
of the mother where her abusive paramour presents a risk of
harm to the children."); In re K.P., No.
15-2078, 2016 WL 1703081, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 27, 2016)
(affirming termination on ground child could not be returned
to the mother's care at the time of the hearing where
mother had surreptitiously recommenced romance with abusive
paramour); In re S.C., No. 15-0262, 2015 WL 2089743,
at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. May 6, 2015) (affirming termination of
rights where the mother failed to attend classes to address
domestic violence and continued to maintain "regular,
inappropriate, and harmful contact" with the abusive
father); In re J.F., No. 13-1956, 2014 WL 667789, at
*2 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2014) (affirming termination of
rights pursuant to paragraph (h) where the mother exposed the
child to domestic violence and unstable relationships);
In re D.H., No. 13-1693, 2014 WL 250256, at *2 (Iowa
Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2014) (affirming termination of rights
where mother was involved in violent relationships); In
re C.C., 538 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995)
(affirming termination where the mother's relationship
with abusive boyfriend created a risk of harm to the
children). We reach the same conclusion here.
and more important, Kara has a decade-long history of
methamphetamine abuse punctuated by periods of sobriety. She
sought treatment on multiple occasions during the pendency of
this case and relapsed. Kara's methamphetamine abuse
poses a risk of adjudicatory harm to the children. The
children have tested positive for the drug. There is no
reason to believe an additional six months' time will
resolve an addiction that has lasted more than a decade.
Under the circumstances, termination of Kara's parental
rights was warranted. See, e.g., In re J.A., No.
16-1512, 2016 WL 6396074, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 26, 2016)
(affirming termination despite mother's request for
additional time where mother "failed to address her
substance-abuse issues over the course of several years"
and "now faces an impending criminal indictment for
methamphetamine distribution"); In re R.P., No.
16-1154, 2016 WL 4544426, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 31, 2016)
(affirming termination of parental rights despite
father's request for more time where father had a history
of substance abuse and there was "nothing to indicate he
could resolve the problem and provide constant and reliable
care for the child outside a supervised setting");
In re C.M., No. 14-1140, 2015 WL 408187, at *4-5
(Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 28, 2015) (affirming termination of
parental rights where the parents sought more time but
evidence established they were unlikely to resolve their
substance abuse problems); In re H.L., No. 14-0708,
2014 WL 3513262, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. July 16, 2014)
(affirming termination of parental rights where the father
had history of substance abuse); In re J.L., No.
02-1968, 2003 WL 21544226, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. July 10,
2003) (concluding relapse of parent despite offer of services
supported termination of parental rights); In re
N.F., 579 N.W.2d 338, 341 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998)
("[I]n considering the impact of a drug addiction, we
must consider the treatment history of the parent to gauge
the likelihood the parent will be in a position to parent the
child in the foreseeable future. Where the parent has been
unable to rise above the addiction and experience sustained
sobriety in a noncustodial setting, and establish the
essential support system to maintain sobriety, there is
little hope of success in parenting.").
next contends the strength of the bond between her and the
children justifies preservation of the parent-child
relationship. See Iowa Code § 232.116(3)(c).
Section 232.116(3)(c) provides the court may avoid
termination if "[t]here is clear and convincing evidence
that the termination would be detrimental to the child at the
time due to the closeness of the parent-child
relationship." Id. The factor is permissive,
and the court may use its discretion in deciding whether to
apply the factor to continue the parent-child relationship.
See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at 113. Our consideration is
not merely whether there is a parent-child bond, "our
consideration must center on whether the child ...