from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey A.
father appeals the denial of his petition to terminate a
guardianship of his minor child.
S. Vonnahme of Vonnahme Law PC, Sioux City, until withdrawal,
and then Anglea H. Kayl, Sioux City, for appellant..
Lindsey Buchheit of Buchheit Law, PLC, Sergeant Bluff, for
Jessica R. Noll of Deck Law, PLC, Sioux City, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
father, Korey, appeals the denial of his petition to
terminate a guardianship of his minor child, M.I.D. Korey
contends he has the fundamental right to parent his child,
there is a statutory parental preference for a child's
placement, and the court erred in denying this preference
when there has been no showing that he is unfit to parent.
Korey further contends the court erred in giving weight to
the guardian ad litem (GAL) and counselor's evidence.
Background Facts and Proceedings
and Molly are the parents of M.I.D., born in fall 2009. They
were married shortly after M.I.D.'s birth, but the
marriage was dissolved in May 2010.Pamela and Bryon Oines are
Korey's mother and step-father. Korey lived in Texas with
his biological father until early 2009, when Korey and Molly
moved to Iowa to live with the Oineses before the birth of
M.I.D. They moved because they believed Iowa would be a
better environment in which to raise the child. They were
living with the Oineses when M.I.D. was born, and M.I.D. has
lived with the Oineses continuously since birth. The Oineses
have been M.I.D.'s primary caretakers since Korey and
Molly's dissolution. When M.I.D. was approximately nine
months old and Korey was out of the state for military basic
training, Molly moved back to Texas and left M.I.D. with the
Oineses. After basic training, Korey moved back in
with the Oineses for a short time. From 2010 to 2014, Korey
moved several times and lived in a number of residences in
the Sioux City area. He also held a number of different jobs,
not remaining at any of the jobs or residences for very long.
M.I.D. remained in the care of the Oineses during this time
and contact with Korey was minimal.
January 2014, Korey moved to Texas. He remains there with his
wife and two children,  while M.I.D. remained with the Oineses.
Less than a month later, the Oineses filed a petition for
guardianship of M.I.D. They cited Korey's recent move to
Texas, his minimal contact with M.I.D. before moving, and his
lack of financial support as the reasons why a guardianship
was necessary. They further applied for the appointment
of a GAL, pursuant to Iowa Code section 633.561(1)(b) (2014).
The following day, the court granted the Oineses' request
for a temporary injunction to prohibit either Korey or Molly
from removing M.I.D. from their care. The court also appointed an
attorney as GAL.
March, the Oineses, Korey, and Molly filed a joint
stipulation in which all parties agreed that a guardianship
was necessary, the Oineses were the most appropriate
guardians, a limited guardianship was not appropriate, and
child support would not be ordered. The court accepted the
stipulation, appointed the Oineses as guardians, terminated
the temporary injunction, and provided Korey and Molly with
visitation "at all reasonable times and places, as
agreed upon between the parties. . . . Korey and Molly will
be given reasonable phone and social media contact with
M.I.D. Korey and Molly shall initiate any visitation or
contact." The court did not order child support. The
Oineses filed guardian reports on May 31, 2014; April 21,
2015; April 1, 2016; and April 25, 2017. They noted in the
2016 and 2017 reports that M.I.D. was attending "therapy
as suggested." The court accepted each of the annual
reports and ordered the guardianship to continue.
14, 2016, Korey filed his petition to terminate the
guardianship, claiming the circumstances which warranted the
guardianship no longer existed, he was able and willing to
care for M.I.D., and the court did not previously find him
unfit. The Oineses resisted the petition and Korey's
asserted reasons for terminating the guardianship. The court
continued the originally scheduled trial until Korey served
the petition on the GAL and Molly, necessary parties, which
occurred on October 24, 2016 and January 19, 2017,
the trial, the court heard from Korey, Molly, Pamela, Bryon,
and Dr. Raul Sanchez, M.I.D.'s therapist for
approximately two years. The GAL participated during the trial
and, with the court's permission, filed her written
closing argument a week later in which she recommended the
guardianship remain in place. Korey filed a motion to strike
her argument, contending that the GAL was appointed under
Iowa Code section 633.561(1)(b) and arguing this section only
allowed the appointment of an attorney for a proposed ward in
proceedings for the appointment of a guardian, not a GAL.
Further, he argued that her appointment under section 633.561
expired in 2014, at the time the court appointed the Oineses
as guardians. Finally, he argued no request was made for the
appointment of a GAL in the present termination proceedings
and the court did not issue an order appointing a GAL in the
proceedings. The court denied the motion, finding the
GAL's initial ...