IN THE INTEREST OF M.F., Minor Child, A.F., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Decatur County, Monty W.
Franklin, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
K. Lain of The Law Office of Jenna K. Lain, P.L.L.C.,
Corydon, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Shireen L. Carter of Carter Law Firm, Norwalk, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
to her daughter, M.F. We conclude the mother has waived the
issues she now raises on appeal. The mother failed to appear
at the termination hearing despite being served with notice
of the hearing. The mother's attorney was present at the
hearing and stated the following:
I have called my client on both her home phone and cell phone
this morning. It was my understanding that she planned to be
present. I do not know why she is not here, and on her
behalf, I feel like it's my duty to request that this
matter be continued to another date so we can get her
court overruled the motion to continue. The mother's
attorney cross- examined the Iowa Department of Human
Service's (DHS) witness but did not introduce any
evidence on behalf of the mother to support her alleged
progress in working toward reunification with M.F. Further,
the mother did not object to the State's exhibits
supporting termination. Accordingly, the mother has waived
the assertions she now makes on appeal.
error had been preserved or waiver had not occurred by the
mother's counsel being present and resisting the
termination through cross-examination, we affirm the district
court's ruling. We review termination proceedings de
novo, giving weight to, but not being bound by, the district
court's fact findings. In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d
212, 219 (Iowa 2016). There must be clear and convincing
evidence of the statutory grounds for termination.
9, 2016, M.F., born 2003, was removed from her mother's
custody upon allegations of domestic violence by the
mother's paramour. M.F. was placed with her grandmother,
but was removed from that placement after the DHS received
allegations M.F. was sexually abused by her uncle. M.F. then
moved between shelters and foster care, and at the time of
the termination hearing resided in a resident group home. For
approximately one year, the mother failed to address the
substance-abuse (methamphetamine and alcohol), mental-health,
and domestic-violence issues prevalent in her life. Instead,
the mother left the state in November 2016 for Missouri. The
mother has an active warrant for her arrest stemming from a
public intoxication conviction in Decatur County in 2017
because she absconded before she served her forty-eight hour
sentence. She failed to maintain contact with DHS so as to
participate in offered services and arrange for contact and
in-person visits with M.F. She has been largely absent from
M.F.'s life since her move to Missouri.
our review of the record, there is clear and convincing
evidence supporting each ground for
termination. The mother had not had face-to-face
interaction with M.F. for over six months and left her to
live in a residential group home, where she receives services
for the issues she has had to struggle with as a result of
the turbulent life the mother has exposed her to. After the
mother moved to Missouri, any contact between the two was
incidental as the mother did not show any intent to place
M.F.'s needs above her own.
there is clear and convincing evidence the mother has not
maintained significant and meaningful contact with M.F.
within the meaning of Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e). There
is also no evidence that it would be in M.F.'s best
interests, within the meaning of section 232.116(2), to
maintain a parent-child relationship with the mother. M.F.
needs stability, and moving to Missouri to live with her
mother, who has not addressed her own substance-abuse or
mental-health issues, is not the answer. Finally, the strong
bond between the mother and the child does not apply. Section
232.116(3)(c) provides the court need not terminate the
parent-child relationship if doing so would be detrimental
due to the closeness of the relationship. We agree with the
district court that the relationship was more harmful than
beneficial, and M.F. resisted termination only to help or
protect her mother, not herself. Even so, the statutory