IN THE INTEREST OF D.J. and B.J., Minor Children, T.J., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, C.J., Father, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Clayton County, Alan D.
Allbee, Associate Juvenile Judge.
father appeals the juvenile court's order terminating his
parental rights to his children, pursuant to chapter 600A.
R. Gonzales of Law Firm of Cory R. Gonzales P.L.L.C.,
Strawberry Point, for appellant father.
M. Vorwald of Ehrhardt, Gnagy, McCorkindale & Vorwald,
Elkader, for appellee mother.
Considered Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
(mother) and Clint (father) divorced in 2012. They had two
children together: D.J., born in 2005; and B.J., born in
2008. The parties were awarded joint legal custody and shared
physical care of their children under the dissolution decree.
The parties waived child support. The mother and father lived
close to each other, and the children would alternate weeks
between the mother's and father's care.
September 2014, the mother suspected the father was using
methamphetamine while caring for the children after the
children reported abnormal behavior from the father during a
visit. The children reported the father was sleeping all day
and they were required to cook their own meals on an open
fire. The children also reported the father would disappear
for an hour in his camper with a friend. The mother testified
the father had a significant amount of weight loss and
"open sores all over." Following the suspicion of
drug use, the mother refused to allow the children to visit
the father under the terms of the dissolution decree unless
the father submitted to a drug screening.
father filed a motion for contempt based on the mother's
refusal to allow visitations. The matter came on for a
hearing, and in its January 2015 order, the court found the
mother was not in contempt of court. The court based its
findings on the concern for the safety of the children due to
the father's un- kept residence, deteriorating physical
appearance, and association with individuals known to use
drugs. The court held:
The conduct by [the mother] was justified by her genuine
concerns about the welfare of the children. The request for a
drug screen test was reasonable, in view of past history,
current evidence, and the widespread availability of street
drugs. Therefore, her actions were not willful and do not
constitute contempt of court.
court further held the mother must "immediately comply
with all provisions of the present decree providing the
respondent with full access to the children" if the
father produced written drug screening results showing no
positive tests for illegal substances. The father did not
provide any drug screening results.
2015, an application for involuntary commitment for a
substance-abuse-related disorder was filed against the
father. The father was evaluated in a hospital for
approximately eleven days. The physician's report
evaluating the father's condition indicated a
"long-standing history of alcohol and amphetamine
dependence." The report also stated the father was a
danger to himself due to "depression, passive suicidal
ideation, and refusing treatment." The father, however,
was discharged based on a report stating, "[The father]
does not appear to need further substance abuse treatment due
to no substance use for several months and no abuse for
several years." The involuntary commitment proceeding
was dismissed in October 2015.
2015, the court held a hearing on the mother's previously
filed petition to modify the custody provisions of
dissolution decree based on the father's illegal drug
The court modified the dissolution decree to provide the
mother sole physical custody of the children. The court held,
"Respondent's apparent return to the usage of
illegal controlled substances now interferes with his ability
to care for the children. There is evidence in the record of
poor decision making by the father, as it pertains to the
children's supervision." The modification also
provided for visitation with the father supervised by the
children's paternal grandmother. Unsupervised visitation
could continue if the father established he has been