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In re K.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 24, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF K.J., R.J., and A.J., Minor Children, N.J., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clay County, Charles K. Borth, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to three children. AFFIRMED.

          Bethany J. Verhoef Brands of Brands Law Office, Spirit Lake, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Shannon L. Sandy of Sandy Law Firm, P.C., Spirit Lake, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to three children, born in 2007, 2009, and 2012.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The department of human services became involved with the family in 2012 based on the parents' conduct with respect to an older child. The parents signed a safety plan to address issues relating to that child. He was eventually transferred to foster care pursuant to a voluntary placement agreement.

         In 2014, the State petitioned to have all four children adjudicated in need of assistance. The district court granted the petition and ordered custody of the three involved in this appeal to remain with their parents subject to department supervision.

         The children were removed from the parents' custody in the fall of 2015 after it was alleged their father assaulted the mother in the children's presence and threatened to kill himself, and the mother "took no steps to contact law enforcement or protect herself or the children." The children were eventually reunited with the father. They remained out of the mother's care through the termination hearing two years later.

         The mother stipulated to the statutory grounds for termination pled by the State. The termination hearing proceeded on a single issue: whether termination was in the children's best interests. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 41 (Iowa 2010). The mother was present at the hearing but did not testify. Following the hearing, the juvenile court concluded termination was in the children's best interests. The mother appealed.

          Meanwhile, the mother's trial attorney moved to withdraw from the appeal based on extraordinary circumstances. The Iowa Supreme Court granted the motion and substitute appellate counsel was appointed. The mother argues her trial attorney was ineffective in (1) "failing to present evidence supporting her claim that termination of her parental rights was not in the children's best interests" and (2) failing to ascertain on the record whether her decision not to testify at ...


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