IN THE INTEREST OF A.T. and A.T., Minor Children, A.B., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, K.T., Father, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine
Dalton Ploof, District Associate Judge.
appeals from the termination of his parental rights pursuant
to Iowa Code chapter 600A (2017).
Brian Weiler, Davenport, for appellant.
K. Pastrnak of Pastrnak Law Firm. P.C., Davenport, for
appellee. Rebecca C. Sharpe of Aitken, Aitken & Sharpe,
P.C., Bettendorf, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
appeals from the termination of his parental rights in A.M.T.
(born 2007) and A.J.T. (born 2010) pursuant to Iowa Code
section 600A.8(3)(b) and (4) (2017). The termination action
was brought by the children's mother, Alex. On appeal,
Kendale challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting
the statutory grounds authorizing the termination of his
parental rights and the sufficiency of the evidence
establishing the termination of his parental rights was in
the best interest of the children.
proceedings under Iowa Code chapter 600A are a two-step
process. In the first step, the petitioner seeking
termination must first show by clear and convincing evidence
a threshold event has occurred that opens the door for
potential termination of parental rights. Once that threshold
showing has been made, the petitioner next must show, by
clear and convincing evidence, termination of parental rights
is in the best interest of the child." In re
Q.G., ___ N.W.2d ___, ___, 2018 WL 2071823, at *9 (Iowa
2018). It is the petitioner's burden to prove each
element of the case by clear and convincing evidence.
See Iowa Code § 600A.8. We review termination
proceedings arising under Iowa Code chapter 600A de novo.
See In re Q.G., 2018 WL 2071823, at *8; In re
G.A., 826 N.W.2d 125, 127 (Iowa Ct. App. 2012). We defer
to the factual findings of the district court, especially
witness-credibility findings, but we are not bound by them.
See G.A., 826 N.W.2d at 127.
first address the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
grounds authorizing the termination of Kendale's parental
rights. Where, as here, the district court terminated a
parent's rights pursuant to more than one statutory
provision, we will affirm the termination order if any ground
is supported by sufficient evidence. We turn our attention to
Iowa Code section 600A.8(4). Pursuant to this provision, the
district court may terminate a parent's rights upon clear
and convincing evidence the "parent has been ordered to
contribute to the support of the child . . . and has failed
to do so without good cause." Iowa Code §
600A.8(4). "If there has been a showing of a substantial
failure to pay, the court must then consider whether that
failure was without good cause. In considering whether there
is good cause for failure to pay child support, the key
factual issue is the parent's ability to pay. A
parent's intent is clearly tied to an ability to
pay." See In re M.J.W., No. 17-0149, 2017 WL
2665957, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21, 2017).
of background, Kendale and Alex were teenagers when Alex
became pregnant with A.M.T. After the birth of A.M.T.,
Kendale and Alex remained in an on-again, off-again
relationship for four or five years. During this time, the
parents had another child, A.J.T. Throughout the
children's lives, Kendale has been involved in criminal
activity and provided little to no financial support for the
children due to periods of incarceration and voluntary
unemployment. The district court found:
Petitioner has proven by clear and convincing proof that
[Kendale] was ordered to contribute to the support of his
children and that he failed to contribute to their support
within the definition of 600A.8(4). Part of the time he was
incarcerated and therefore unable to contribute to their
support. But he also did not contribute when he was working
and when he was released. The largest payment made by him was
due to a garnishment of a tax return. He has paid
approximately 10% of his ordered financial support. He has an
outstanding balance of over $6, 000.00 and was only ordered