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In re A.C.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 10, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.C.W., Minor Child, M.W., Petitioner-Appellee, M.T., Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, DeDra L. Schroeder, Judge.

         A biological father appeals the juvenile court decision terminating his parental rights in a private termination action.

          Joseph G. Martin of Joseph G. Martin, PC, Cedar Falls, for appellant.

          Sarah A. Reindl of Reindl Law Firm, PLC, Mason City, for appellee.

          Mark A. Milder of Mark Milder Law Firm, Waverly, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE

         A biological father, Melvin, appeals the juvenile court order extinguishing his parental relationship with five-year-old A.C.W. in this private termination action. Melvin disputes the court's finding he abandoned his son by failing to maintain contact or pay support. Melvin also argues termination was not in A.C.W.'s best interests. After reviewing the record anew, we reach the same conclusions as the juvenile court.[1] The facts support a finding of abandonment. Melvin only met A.C.W. once and provided no support beyond a single Christmas present. We also find ending Melvin's rights advances the child's welfare. For these reasons, we affirm the termination order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Our narrative begins in 2011 when Melvin had an intimate relationship with Alecia. At the same time, Alecia had an intimate relationship with Monte. So when Alecia learned she was pregnant, she was unsure which man was the father. In May 2011, Alecia informed Melvin of her liaison with Monte. In response, Melvin moved to Texas. After moving away, Melvin had minimal contact with and provided no financial support for A.C.W., despite knowing he might be the father.

         Alecia continued her relationship with Monte and told him she believed he was the father. When A.C.W. was born in February 2012, Monte signed a voluntary recognition of parentage and his name appeared as the father on the birth certificate. But Alecia also notified Melvin when A.C.W. was born. Melvin asserts Alecia told him a DNA test confirmed Monte was the child's father. Alecia denies making that statement. Melvin took no action to verify paternity.

         Alecia married Monte in March 2012, shortly after A.C.W.'s birth. One year later, they had a child a child in common, B.W. Alecia described the boys as "pretty tight," noting their proximity in age.

         In 2016, Alecia and Monte's relationship unraveled. In April that year, Alecia contacted Melvin to tell him she believed he was A.C.W.'s biological father. Melvin alleges he delayed attempts to establish a relationship with A.C.W. or to extend financial support because Alecia told him to wait while she worked to improve her marriage to Monte. But the marriage was unsalvageable. In September, Monte petitioned to dissolve his marriage to Alecia. In her answer, Alecia admitted the parties had two minor children-A.C.W. and B.W. In an order on temporary matters, the district court placed the children in Monte's physical care.

         DNA testing completed in April 2017 revealed Melvin was A.C.W.'s biological father. The next month, Melvin petitioned to establish paternity, custody, and support of the child. Two months later, Alecia petitioned to disestablish Monte as the legal father of the child. In response, Monte petitioned to terminate Melvin's parental ...


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