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In re J.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 2, 2017

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

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Louise M. Jacobs, District Associate Judge.

         Mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights issued pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2016).

          Magdalena Reese of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer, & Reese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Erin M. Hardisty of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         The juvenile court terminated Julie's parental rights in her two children pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2016). In this appeal, Julie challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the termination of her parental rights, contends she should be given more time to reunify with her children, challenges whether termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the children, and contends permissive considerations should preclude the termination of her parental rights.

         I.

         Termination-of-parental-rights proceedings are reviewed de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). 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. "The 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)).

         II.

         A.

         Julie challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the termination of her parental rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(h). Under this provision, the State must ...


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