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In re M.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.W., Minor Child, S.S., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Steven J. Holwerda, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals a permanency order transferring guardianship and custody of his child to her maternal aunt. AFFIRMED.

          Christopher A. Clausen of Clausen Law Office, Ames, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Jane K. Odland of Odland Law Firm, PLLC, Newton, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         A father appeals a permanency order transferring guardianship and custody of his child to her maternal aunt. He contends (1) the child should have been placed with him during the child-in-need-of-assistance proceedings and (2) the district court erred in ordering a guardianship with the aunt. We will address the interrelated contentions together.

         Our de novo review of the record reveals the following facts. The child was born in 2004. Prior to the initiation of these proceedings, the mother had custody and physical care of the child and the father exercised visitation on alternating weekends.

         When the child was eleven years old, the State filed a child-in-need-of-assistance petition alleging the mother was "using methamphetamine and selling methamphetamine in the home where the [child] reside[s]." The mother stipulated to having the child adjudicated in need of assistance. The district court adjudicated the child and granted the mother temporary legal custody, subject to the supervision of the department of human services. The father continued to exercise alternating-weekend visitation with the child.

         In time, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine. The State applied to have the child removed from her care. The district court granted the application, and the child was placed with her maternal aunt. Following a hearing, the court confirmed the out-of-home placement.

         Two months later, the department recommended the child's return to the mother, under its protective supervision. At the same time, the father requested custody of the child. The district court found that the father never had custody of the child, the mother had always been the child's primary caregiver, the mother was undergoing inpatient substance-abuse treatment, and the mother was "now in a position where the child [could] be returned to her care . . . safely." The court ordered temporary custody transferred to the mother, under the department's protective supervision.

         Less than a month later, the mother was unsuccessfully discharged from the substance-abuse treatment center due to aggressive behaviors. The department again applied to have the child removed from her care. The district court granted the application and the child was returned to the home of her maternal aunt.

         Meanwhile, the father continued to exercise visitation with the child. The department agreed to a plan that would transition her to her father's care and custody. Under the plan, the father's visits were to increase to a Thursday through Monday alternating-week schedule and, after ...


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