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In re J.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF J.H., Minor Child, Z.H., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cedar County, Gary P. Strausser, District Associate Judge.

         The father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          Mark J. Neary of Neary Law Office, Muscatine, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Lisa Jones of Norton, Baumann & Surls, PLLC, Lowden, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The father appeals the termination of his parental rights to J.H., born in May 2016. He argues the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h), (n), and (m) (2018). Because the father severely abused J.H. and was ordered to vacate the home, we find the statutory grounds under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) were proved by clear and convincing evidence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         This family first came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) on July 24, 2016. At that time, J.H., who was about two and one-half months old, was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for multiple injuries associated with Shaken Baby Syndrome and severe physical abuse, including head injury and multiple fractured ribs at various stages of healing. The father was caring for J.H. the day J.H. was admitted to the hospital, and he confessed to throwing J.H. on the bed in frustration. On September 7, while J.H. was still hospitalized, the juvenile court issued an order for the father to remove himself from the home. J.H. has remained in his mother's custody. In August 2017, the father was convicted of child endangerment, multiple acts resulting in serious injury, as well as neglect of dependent person, in violation of Iowa Code sections 726.6A and 726.3 respectively. The court imposed a sentence not to exceed fifty years of incarceration on the child-endangerment conviction and not to exceed ten years on the neglect conviction, imposing the terms to run consecutively.[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         We review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo. In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). "We are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). "We will uphold an order terminating parental rights if there is clear and convincing evidence of grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116." Id.; see Iowa Code § 232.117(3) ("If the court concludes that facts sufficient to sustain the petition have been established by clear and convincing evidence, the court may order parental rights terminated."). "'Clear and convincing evidence' means there are no serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness [of] conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000).

         III. Grounds for Termination

         "When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile court's order on any ground we find supported by the record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa 2012).[2] The father argues the district court erroneously found the State proved by clear and convincing evidence his parental rights should be terminated under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h).[3] Specifically, he argues section 232.116(1)(h)(3) has not been ...


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