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In re M.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M. and I.M., Minor Children, C.J., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, G.M., Father, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Monroe County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to two sons under Iowa Code chapter 600A.

          Robert F. Bozwell, Jr., Centerville, for appellant father.

          Steven E. Goodlow, Albia, for appellee mother.

          Kevin S. Maughan, Albia, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         A father, Gabriel, appeals the juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to two sons, twelve-year-old M.M. and nine-year-old I.M. He contests the finding he abandoned the children under Iowa Code section 600A.2(19) (2017). He also argues termination is not in the children's best interests. After reviewing the record anew, we reach the same conclusions as the juvenile court.[1] The mother, Crystal, offered clear and convincing evidence Gabriel, by his actions, rejected the duties imposed by a parent-child relationship. She also showed termination would help satisfy the children's need for consistency and stability. For these reasons, we affirm the termination order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Gabriel and Crystal were married for almost six years, divorcing in 2008. They had two sons. M.M. was born in 2006. His brother, I.M., was born two years later. After the divorce, Crystal had physical care of the boys. The decree allowed Gabriel visitation and directed him to pay child support.

         Gabriel lacked stability after the divorce. He moved quite a bit and often stayed with friends or relatives. And he did not hold steady employment-at one point going three years without a job. As a consequence, he exercised visitation and paid child support only sporadically. Gabriel admitted a history of methamphetamine and marijuana abuse. But he testified to being drug-free for 200 days at the time of the termination hearing.

         Crystal remarried in 2012. She and her husband, Travis, care for M.M. and I.M., as well as three children they share. Travis testified he gets along "great" with I.M. and M.M. and wishes to adopt them.

         For their part, the boys have experienced behavioral challenges. Crystal testified the family doctor diagnosed I.M. as having oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, seizure disorder, and intellectual disabilities. For these conditions, the doctor prescribed four different medications to be taken daily. Crystal testified if I.M. does not stay on schedule with his prescriptions, his behavior "gets really bad" and he risks a higher chance of having a seizure. I.M. has been hospitalized twice for mental health issues. M.M. also takes daily medication for ADHD and anxiety.

         Crystal expressed concern Gabriel did not properly administer the boys' medications when he had them for weekend visitations. After one visitation in particular, she believed their uncontrolled behavior signaled they had not received proper doses. When she asked Gabriel about it in a text message, she received this response: "I gave them enough medication so that they wouldn't have withdrawals." A testy phone call followed in which Gabriel and Travis exchanged threats. Gabriel testified Crystal did not include him in the decision to have ...


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