IN THE INTEREST OF S.M., Minor Child, T.M., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Cass County, Amy L.
Zacharias, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
William T. Early, Harlan, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Anita, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to
S.M., born in 2006. He contends the State failed to prove the
statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing
evidence and termination is not in the child's best
interests. We review termination-of-parental-rights
proceedings de novo. In re L.M., 904 N.W.2d 835, 839
the statutory grounds for termination, the juvenile court
terminated the father's parental rights under Iowa Code
section 232.116(1)(b) and (e) (2018). "[W]e may affirm
the juvenile court's termination order on any ground that
we find supported by clear and convincing evidence."
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010).
Termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) may be
(1) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of
assistance pursuant to section 232.96.
(2) The child has been removed from the physical custody of
the child's parents for a period of at least six
(3) There is clear and convincing evidence that the parents
have not maintained significant and meaningful contact with
the child during the previous six consecutive months and have
made no reasonable efforts to resume care of the child
despite being given the opportunity to do so. For the
purposes of this subparagraph, "significant and
meaningful contact" includes but is not limited to the
affirmative assumption by the parents of the duties
encompassed by the role of being a parent. This affirmative
duty, in addition to financial obligations, requires
continued interest in the child, a genuine effort to complete
the responsibilities prescribed in the case permanency plan,
a genuine effort to maintain communication with the child,
and requires that the parents establish and maintain a place
of importance in the child's life.
father does not challenge the establishment of the first two
elements. Instead, he challenges the third element,
contending that he has had some contact with the child during
the previous six consecutive months. He also argues that he
continued to pay child support until he was no longer able to
child's case with the Iowa Department of Human Services
(DHS) has been open for four years, during which the child
has largely resided with his mother. The mother relapsed in
July 2017 and S.M. began living with the father and his wife.
The child was subsequently removed from the father's care
in February 2018 due to a domestic altercation, during which
the father was arrested for assaulting his wife. After the
child's removal, the record provides that what the father
identifies as contact with the child were really incidental
occurrences in which they happened to run into each other,
not scheduled visitation. Further, the father failed to
contact DHS to attempt to schedule visitation. There is clear
and convincing evidence that during the previous six months,
the father ...