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In re M.J.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF M.J.W., Minor Child, C.W., Father, Appellant, B.G., Mother, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Washington County, Crystal S. Cronk, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals an order terminating his parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 600A (2016). AFFIRMED.

          Michael S. Fisher of Fisher Law Office, Oskaloosa, for appellant father.

          Katherine E.M. Lujan of Lloyd, McConnell, Davis & Lujan, L.L.P., Washington, for appellee mother.

          Kathryn J. Salazar of Lamping, Schlegel & Salazar, L.L.P., Washington, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         This is an appeal in a private action to terminate parental rights filed pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 600A (2016). The district court terminated Christopher's parental rights in his child M.J.W. pursuant to Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b) (abandonment) and 600A.8(4) (failure to provide financial support). Christopher timely filed this appeal.

         I.

         This court reviews de novo termination-of-parental-rights proceedings. See In re C.A.V., 787 N.W.2d 96, 99 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010). "Although our review is de novo, we do afford the decision of the district court deference for policy reasons." State v. Snow, No. 15-0929, 2016 WL 4801353, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 14, 2016). It is the petitioner's burden to prove each element of the case by clear and convincing evidence. See Iowa Code § 600A.8.

         II.

         Brandi, the mother and petitioner, and Christopher met and began a romantic relationship in 2003. In 2004, Brandi gave birth to their child M.J.W. Although Brandi was apprehensive of marrying Christopher due to his past use of controlled substances, they married in April 2005.

         Their relationship quickly deteriorated. Brandi discovered Christopher using methamphetamine in the marital home in the immediate vicinity of M.J.W. Brandi took M.J.W. and moved out of the marital home the following day. The parties divorced in 2006. The parties were granted joint legal custody, Brandi was awarded physical care, and Christopher was awarded regular visitation to be supervised by his mother. Christopher was ordered to pay $337.85 per month in child support.

         From 2006 to 2008 Christopher maintained regular visitation with M.J.W. In 2008, Brandi moved to Illinois with her new paramour, Fred, to help care for Fred's ill father. Christopher continued to exercise visitation with M.J.W. every other weekend. In late 2008, Christopher left a voicemail message threatening Brandi, Fred, and M.J.W. Brandi obtained a protective order; however, the parties resumed visitation in 2009. In 2011, Christopher's visitation with M.J.W. became erratic. M.J.W. last saw Christopher in January 2013. During the visit, M.J.W. called Brandi and requested to come home because Christopher was not present and when he was present he was ...


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