IN THE INTEREST OF O.C., Minor Child, S.L., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Barbara H.
Liesveld, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
J. Butz of Butz Law Offices, PC, Center Point, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Jennings Hoover of Hoover Law Office, P.C., Cedar Rapids,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to
O.C., born in 2014. She argues: (1) reasonable efforts under
Iowa Code section 232.102(7) (2018) to return the child to
her home were not made, and (2) termination is not in the
best interests of the child.
child was removed from her mother's care in June 2017 due
to the mother's use of methamphetamine while caring for
the child. The child was adjudicated as a child in need of
assistance (CINA) the same month. Due to the mother's
ongoing issues with substance abuse and inconsistency in
attending visitation, a petition to terminate parental rights
was filed in May 2018, and trial was held on July 10, 2018.
Thereafter, the juvenile court concluded the State proved by
clear and convincing evidence that the mother's parental
rights to the child should be terminated pursuant to sections
232.116(1)(h) and (l). The court also concluded
termination is in the best interests of the child and that
none of the exceptions under section 232.116(3) applied. The
of parental rights under Iowa Code chapter 232 follows a
three-step analysis. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33,
40-41 (Iowa 2010). First, the court must determine if a
ground authorizing the termination of parental rights under
section 232.116(1) has been established. See id. at
40. Second, if a ground for termination is established, the
court must apply the framework set forth in section
232.116(2) to decide if proceeding with termination is in the
best interests of the child. See id. Third, if the
statutory best-interests framework supports termination of
parental rights, the court must consider if any statutory
exceptions set forth in section 232.116(3) should serve to
preclude termination. See id. at 41. The exceptions
set forth in subsection three are permissive and not
mandatory. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100,
113 (Iowa 2014).
mother does not challenge the State's establishment of
the statutory grounds for termination, nor does she suggest
any statutory exception applies to preclude termination, so
we need not discuss these steps in our analysis. See
P.L., 778 N.W.2d at 40. Instead, she contends the
State failed to make reasonable efforts under section
232.102(7) to provide visitation with the child, and that
termination is not in the child's best interests. In
passing, and without argument, she also suggests she should
have been granted a six-month extension. The mother has not
preserved error with respect to any issue raised in this
appeal, or she has waived any challenge to the termination of
her parental rights. "[T]he general rule that appellate
arguments must first be raised in the trial court applies to
. . . termination of parental rights cases." In re
A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 773 (Iowa 2012). The mother was
present at the beginning of the termination trial. Prior to
the taking of testimony, the mother's counsel stated:
[The mother] has made the very difficult decision-she is not
in agreement with termination of [the child]'s rights but
does not intend to put on any evidence in resistance to the
State's Petition. She would request that the adoptive
family, that they not change [the child]'s last name and
that is the last name of her deceased father. And while she
would prefer guardianship for [the child], she understands
that given her young age that adoption is likely. And at this
time, Your Honor, she would ask to be excused.
court responded to the mother that "it's always
difficult to place the interests of your children ahead of
your own so I appreciate the difficulty of the decision
you're making today. And if you wish to be excused, you
may." The mother then left the courtroom. She did not
challenge the State's evidence, and she did not testify.
She offered one exhibit showing she had completed
substance-abuse treatment. She made no complaint about lack
of reasonable efforts regarding visitation. She did not ask
for a six-month extension. The mother's counsel made no
closing argument. The mother's failure to challenge the
termination of her parental rights in the juvenile court
constitutes the failure to preserve error and/or waiver.
See In re A.W., No. 18-0094, 2018 WL 1182618, at *1
(Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 7, 2018) (collecting cases).
the mother had preserved error or not waived her claims, her
claims on appeal are unavailing. We review termination
proceedings de novo. See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at 110. We
are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact,
although we ...