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In re S.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF S.B., Minor Child, M.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Kristin L. Denniger, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Angela M. Railsback of Railsback Law Office, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          DOYLE, Judge.

         M.B. appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child S.B., born in February 2017.[1] She challenges the grounds for termination found by the juvenile court, and she contends termination of her parental rights is not in the child's best interests. Upon our review, we affirm.

         I. Standard of Review and Statutory Framework.

         Parental rights may be terminated under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017) 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.

         A. Grounds for Termination.

         The juvenile court found the State proved the grounds for termination set forth in Iowa Code section 232.116(1) paragraphs (h) and (l), which the mother contests on appeal. When the juvenile court finds more than one ground for termination under section 232.116(1), "we may affirm . . . on any ground we find supported by the record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa 2012). We focus our analysis on paragraph (h).

         With regard to section 232.116(1)(h), the mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the fourth element of the paragraph-that the child could not be returned to her custody at the time of the termination hearing. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(h)(4) ("There is clear and convincing evidence that the child cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parents as provided in section 232.102 at the present time."). To satisfy its burden of proof, the State must establish "[t]he child cannot be protected from some harm which would justify the adjudication of the child as a child in need of assistance." Id. § 232.102(5)(a)(2); accord In re A.M.S., 419 N.W.2d 723, 725 (Iowa 1988). "At the present time" refers to the time of the termination hearing. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 111 (Iowa 2014). The mother argues the State failed to prove that element, explaining she "indicated at trial that her wish for the case was to have [the ...


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