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In re O.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF O.E. and A.E., Minor Children, B.E., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Mark Schlenker, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court's termination of his parental rights in a private termination action. AFFIRMED.

          Zachary C. Priebe of Jeff Carter Law Offices, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Mark A. Simons of Simons Law Firm, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellee mother.

          Jeremy M. Evans of Sporer & Flanagan, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court's termination of his parental rights in a private termination action. We find there is sufficient evidence in the record to show the father abandoned the children. Also, termination of the father's parental rights is in the children's best interests.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         B.E., father, and E.H., mother, were previously married and are the parents of two children, O.E. and A.E., born in 2011 and 2012, respectively. A default dissolution decree was entered on December 17, 2014, granting the mother sole legal custody and physical care of the children. At the time of the decree, a restraining order prohibited the father from contacting the mother. The decree provided, "After the restraining order has expired, the terms and restrictions on visitation, including the extent to which visitation, if any, will be supervised, shall be as agreed by the parties." The father was ordered to pay child support of $317 per month for the two children.[1]

         The father has a history of substance abuse and criminal conduct. He had minimal visitation with the children. According to the mother, he had one hour of visitation in 2013, none in 2014, and five hours in 2015. Additionally, he did not pay child support as ordered in the decree. He paid a total of $592.02 in 2014 and $561.91 in 2015.

         The mother filed a petition on September 3, 2015, seeking termination of the father's parental rights under Iowa Code section 600A.8 (2015). She claimed the father had abandoned the children and failed to financially support them. While this case was pending, on January 5, 2016, the children were removed from the mother's care because she and her paramour locked them in a room, leaving them without adequate supervision, access to food, or personal hygiene. The children were placed with the maternal grandparents. They were adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA), pursuant to section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2). The private termination action was continued due to the CINA proceedings.

         The mother separated from her paramour and participated in services. She began living with her current fiancé, A.J. During the CINA proceedings, the father had two visits with the children. He stated he stopped attending visits in July 2016 because he relapsed into drug use. He subsequently attended treatment for substance abuse. On December 13, 2016, the juvenile court ordered the children could be returned to the mother's care, under the supervision of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).[2]

         The parties then resumed the private termination action. After a hearing, the court entered an order on April 6, 2017, terminating the father's parental rights ...


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