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In re C.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 18, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.M., Minor Child, P.M., Father, Appellant.

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

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          Mathew D. Zinkula of Booth Law Firm, Osceola, for appellant father.

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

          Erin E. Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          DOYLE, Presiding Judge.

         C.M. was born in 2006. A month after his eleventh birthday, the juvenile court terminated his father's parental rights, finding that the State established the ground for termination set forth in Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2017) and that termination was in the child's best interests.[1] The father now appeals on both points. Upon our de novo review, we affirm.

         I. Standard of Review and Statutory Framework.

         Parental rights may be terminated under Iowa Code chapter 232 if the following three conditions are true: (1) a "ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has been established" by clear and convincing evidence, (2) "the best-interest framework as laid out in section 232.116(2) supports the termination of parental rights, " and (3) none of the "exceptions in section 232.116(3) apply to preclude termination of parental rights."[2] In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018). Our review is de novo, which means we give the juvenile court's findings of fact weight, especially the court's credibility assessments, but we are not bound by those findings. See id. at 472. "For evidence to be 'clear and convincing, ' it is merely necessary that there be no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the conclusion drawn from it." Raim v. Stancel, 339 N.W.2d 621, 624 (Iowa Ct. App. 1983); see also In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016).

          II. Discussion.

         Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) requires the State to prove, among other things, that there is clear and convincing evidence the child could not be returned to the parent's care at the time of the termination-of-parental-rights hearing. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(1)-(4); see also In re C.F.-H., 889 N.W.2d 201, 205 (Iowa 2016) (discussing paragraph (f)). Based upon the following facts, we agree with the juvenile court that the State met its burden.

         In September 2016, the child came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) after the child's treating psychiatrist wrote a detailed letter recommending the child be placed out of the father's care.[3] At that time, the child lived with the father in the home of a woman whose relationship to the family is unclear. The child referred to the woman as his "aunt" and "homeschool teacher, " while the father referred to the woman at times as his "friend, " his "roommate, " his "taxi driver, " or his "care taker."[4] Also living in the home with the father, the child, and the friend were the friend's fiancé, the friend's twenty-year-old daughter, the child's seventeen-year-old half-sister, five cats, one kitten, and two dogs.

         The psychiatrist's letter explained that at the end of August 2016, the child was hospitalized for the second time that year after the child again made threats of suicide and self-harm, as well as threatening to harm others and animals. After the second hospitalization, the psychiatrist consulted other professionals that had been involved in the child's treatment after the first hospitalization-the child's outpatient therapist, the nurse practitioner (ARNP) that had been treating the child and managing his various ...


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