IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.K.M., JARED MCTAGGART, Interested Party-Father of Minor Child/Appellant, ERIC J. METZ and CHRISTINA M. METZ, Guardians of Minor Child/Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L.
father appeals from a decision denying his petition to
terminate a guardianship over his daughter.
McKenzie R. Hill of O'Connor & Thomas, P.C., Dubuque,
A. Splinter of Splinter Law Office, Dubuque, for appellees.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.
father, Jared, appeals from an adverse decision on his
petition to terminate the guardianship of his minor child,
and Jared are the parents of S.K.M. (born 2007). The parents
separated a few months after the child was born. After the
parties separated, Stephanie and S.K.M. lived with relatives
in Cedar Rapids and Grinnell. Jared went to college in
Dubuque and began working part-time for FedEx, an
international package delivery company.
early 2009, Stephanie informed Jared she was unable to care
for S.K.M., and she asked Jared if he would take physical
care of S.K.M. At the time, Jared was still in college and
living with roommates. Jared asked for time to get his own
apartment. Without waiting, Stephanie gave physical care of
S.K.M. to her father, Eric Metz, and his then-girlfriend,
now-wife, Christie, in Grinnell. Stephanie informed Jared she
was going to file a petition to appoint Eric and Christie
S.K.M.'s temporary guardians. Jared was served notice of
the guardianship proceeding and had actual knowledge of the
guardianship proceeding, but he chose not to participate in
the proceeding. The juvenile court established a guardianship
for S.K.M. and appointed Eric and Christie S.K.M.'s
guardians. After the guardianship was established, Stephanie
moved to Colorado. Although she has returned to Iowa, she has
had little contact with the child.
summer of 2009, Jared left college and sought full-time
employment. He was offered a full-time position with FedEx in
Chicago, which he accepted. He moved to Chicago in January
2010. During this time, Jared's mother Brenda exercised
visitation with S.K.M. and A.L.M., Jared's other child by
another mother, every other weekend. Jared would occasionally
make the trip from Chicago to Cedar Rapids to stay with his
mother and visit his children. Brenda brought the children to
Chicago to see Jared on a few occasions as well. Jared had
approximately thirteen or fourteen in-person visits with the
children during his time living in Chicago. He had frequent,
perhaps even daily, phone contact with S.K.M.
early 2012, the Metzes moved to Dubuque. In June 2012, Jared
accepted a lateral position with FedEx in Madison, Wisconsin.
Jared exercised visitation with S.K.M. more frequently after
moving to Madison, which is closer to Dubuque. There was
evidence he exercised visits more than every other weekend
during the summer of 2012, including some extended visits.
August 2013, Jared accepted a promotion with FedEx in Neenah,
Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, the Metzes filed a petition to
terminate the parental rights (TPR) of both biological
parents. The juvenile court denied the TPR petition. The
Metzes appealed, and this court affirmed the juvenile
court's decision. See In re S.M., No. 14-0287,
2015 WL 4644820, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2015). We
It is also in the best interests of S.M. that the
father's rights not be terminated. The record established
S.M. and the father shared a bond. While he has clearly
relinquished the day-to-day care of S.M. to the guardians,
and been satisfied with her placement, he has not removed
himself from S.M.'s life so as to break that bond.
We do note that the [guardian ad litem (GAL)'s]
observation the father did not do nearly as much as he could
to meaningfully parent S.M. has merit. A great deal of the
father's visitation was taken up with the father's
mother caring for S.M. It is also apparent from the record
the father visited S.M. when it was convenient for him and
his employment, irrespective of S.M.'s need to have her
father present. Additionally, the father-given his increased
income over the years-could have contributed more to
S.M.'s physical care and maintenance. According to the
guardian-grandfather, instead of voluntarily contributing to
S.M.'s support, the father asked whether the guardians
were "going to turn him into child support because
he's making more money."
However, these shortcomings do not satisfy the requirements
of abandonment within the meaning of Iowa Code section
600A.8(3)(b). As noted above, the record establishes the
father satisfied his child support obligation and has
maintained contact with S.M. Consequently, we agree with the
juvenile court's conclusion the guardians failed to prove
by clear and convincing evidence the ...