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In re A.F.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.F., Minor Child, A.J.F., Mother, Appellant, D.F., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, James B. Malloy, District Associate Judge.

         The mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Ashley M. Sparks of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese, PC, West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Nicolas G. Fontanini of Jordan & Mahoney Law Firm, PC, Boone, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Nicole Berman of Hastings, Gartin & Boettger, LLP, Ames, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child, A.F., who was born in October 2011. The juvenile court terminated each parent's rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2017), and neither parent challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to meet the statutory grounds. Each challenges the determination that termination is in A.F.'s best interests and claims the court should have found that a permissive factor precludes termination and should have saved the parent-child relationships by placing A.F. in a guardianship with her paternal grandmother rather than terminating the parental rights.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In September 2016, local police executed a search warrant on the family's home and discovered more than one-quarter of a pound of methamphetamine, a large sum of cash, drug paraphernalia, other evidence of intent to sell, and a stolen firearm. As a result of the search, each parent was charged with a number of crimes. In a later interview with the Iowa Department of Human Services, the mother admitted she relapsed on methamphetamine in March 2016 and indicated she used the drug two to three times per week since; she claimed she did not use the drug in the home. The father indicated he relapsed on methamphetamine in November or December 2015 and admitted he used the drug three to four times each day; he admitted using the drug in the garage of the home.

         The parents consented to the temporary removal of A.F. from their care in October 2016. A.F. was placed in the care of her paternal grandmother, where she remained at the time of the termination hearing in January 2018.

         The mother originally accepted a plea deal, which resulted in her receiving probation for the September 2016 drug-related charges. However, at the time of the termination hearing, the mother had just been sentenced to serve a ten-year prison term following a guilty plea to an August 2017 charge of theft in the first degree.[1] In addition, the mother's probation officer filed a notice of the mother's probation violation following the new charges in August, and a probation-revocation action was still pending. The mother faced an additional ten-year sentence if her probation was revoked.

         The father ultimately pled guilty to two counts of possession with intent to deliver (methamphetamine).[2] He was still awaiting sentencing at the time of the termination hearing. The father testified he knew he would be serving prison time but hoped to receive the minimum sentence, which would allow him to be released in June 2020. ...


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