IN THE INTEREST OF E.R. Jr. and E.R., Minor Children, E.R., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Hancock County, Karen
Kaufman Salic, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
Richard N. Tompkins Jr., Mason City, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Danielle M. DeBower of Eggert, Erb, Kuehner & DeBower,
P.L.C., Charles City, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
two children. He contends termination is not in the
children's best interests, a statutory exception to
termination pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a)
(2018) applies, and he should have been granted an extension
to work toward reunification.
children in interest, ER1 and ER2, were born in July 2015 and
October 2017. The children came to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) the day after ER2's
birth due to severe medical complications relating to the
birth. The child's birth was followed by several months
of hospitalization, and the child's complications could
potentially result in future medical issues. The mother
failed to make critical medical decisions and admitted she
had not sought any prenatal care. The mother tested positive
for amphetamine and benzodiazepine at the time of delivery,
and she admitted using methamphetamine since June 2017. She
also admitted using Xanax just prior to delivery. ER2's
umbilical cord blood tested positive for amphetamine and
tests completed on ER1 were positive for marijuana and
methamphetamine. The mother had a history with DHS regarding
some of her other children, and her parental rights have been
terminated as to multiple children. The court granted
temporary removal of both children from the mother's care
and placed the children with a foster family that had
previously adopted two of the mother's other
father has a lengthy history of assaulting the mother, which
resulted in prior incarceration. During DHS's
investigation, it learned of a serious domestic- abuse
incident which occurred in August 2017 between the mother and
father during which the father strangled the mother, pulled
her hair, and threatened her with a knife. The mother was
pregnant with ER2 and ER1 was present. Law enforcement
located the father hiding under a bed with a knife. This
incident led to the father's arrest and subsequent
conviction for domestic abuse assault. The court sentenced
him to two years in prison and entered a no-contact order,
which is in effect until 2023. The father was also convicted
of twenty-four counts of violating the no-contact order while
in jail. His sentence in those proceedings was ordered to run
consecutively with the assault conviction. He remained
incarcerated through the life of this case, including during
the termination hearing. He testified that his expected
release date is October 2018. The father has never met ER2
and, during the pendency of this case, has not had any
visitation with ER1.
ultimately returned founded child-abuse assessments against
both parents for denial of critical care. The court
adjudicated both children in need of assistance in November
2017 and they remained in foster care until April 2018, at
which time they were returned to the mother's care and
temporary custody after she met all of DHS's
expectations, including completing substance-abuse treatment
and remaining sober. The State filed petitions to terminate
the father's parental rights to ER1 and ER2 in May 2018
pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The termination
hearing occurred on August 31, 2018, with the court filing
its ruling later that same day. The juvenile court terminated
the father's parental rights to both children pursuant to
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The father appeals.
review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo.
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010).
"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." Id. We will
uphold the termination of parental rights "if there is
clear and convincing evidence of the grounds for termination
under Iowa Code section 232.116." Id. The best
interests of the children is the principal interest in
termination proceedings. In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489,
492 (Iowa 2000).
father does not dispute the sufficiency of the evidence under
section 232.116(1)(h), therefore we do not need to discuss
this step in the three-step termination process. See In
re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010). The father
contends termination is not in the best interests of the
children. However, he provides no citations to authorities or
supportive facts in support of his argument. We therefore
deem the argument waived. See Iowa R. App. P.
6.903(2)(g)(3) ("Failure to cite authority in support of
an issue may be deemed waiver of that issue.").
the father argues the statutory exception to termination
contained in Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a) applies because
the children are in the custody of their mother. The
"factors weighing against termination in section
232.116(3) are permissive, not mandatory." In re
M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 225 (Iowa 2016) (quoting In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 113 (Iowa 2014)). Section
232.116(3)(a) permits the juvenile court to forego
termination when a "relative has legal custody of the
child." The court "may use [its] discretion
'based on the unique circumstances of each case and the
best interests of the child, whether to apply the factors in
this section to save the parent-child
relationship.'" Id. (quoting A.M.,
843 N.W.2d at 113). "[O]nce the State has proven a
ground for ...