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In re J.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF J.M., Minor Child, K.M., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.

          Peter W. Stiefel, Victor, for appellant mother.

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

          Misty White of White Law Office, Sigourney, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. She also contends termination is not in the child's best interests. Finally, the mother argues the court erred in denying her motion to reopen the record.

         We review termination proceedings de novo. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). In doing so, we are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, although we give them weight, especially those concerning witness credibility. See id.

         The mother was residing with the maternal grandmother when a February 2016 call to 9-1-1 led to the discovery of forty individually-packaged bags of marijuana, as well as unpackaged marijuana, in the home. One month earlier, a maternal uncle had been involved in an armed robbery, and the handgun used in the robbery had also been discovered in the home. Due to concerns about the child's safety in the home, the child was removed from the mother's care and adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance. The child was returned to the mother's care in September 2016.

         The mother was residing with the maternal grandmother when the child was again removed in May 2017. The maternal grandmother and two uncles were connected to a series of drive-by shootings, and marijuana and crack cocaine were discovered in the home. The State petitioned to terminate the mother's parental rights in November 2017, and following a hearing, the juvenile court granted the petition.

         Before terminating parental rights, the juvenile court must find clear and convincing evidence supporting one of the grounds for termination listed under section 232.116(1) (2017). See In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h), which requires clear and convincing evidence of the following:

(1)The child is three years of age or younger.
(2) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance pursuant ...

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