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In re S.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF S.W., Minor Child, P.W., Father, Appellant, H.W., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

         The mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Raya D. Dimitrova of Carr Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          David Barajas of Macro & Kozlowski, LLP, West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Paul L. White of the Des Moines Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The father and mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to S.W., born in July 2015. The father argues the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018). Both argue the district court should have granted a six-month extension and should have found termination was not in S.W.'s best interests. We find the State has proved the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence, a six-month extension would not have extinguished the need for removal, and termination is in S.W.'s best interests.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The family first came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in April 2017 after the mother reported a domestic assault to law enforcement. On April 19, the mother and father, who are not married, visited the home of a known drug dealer with S.W. in their vehicle. As the father drove away from the home, he and the mother began to argue. According to a report from law enforcement, the father "became very aggressive and started driving erratically and at high speeds," even "driving so fast his jeep went onto 2 wheels while making turns." Additionally, the mother stated the father held a knife to her throat as they returned home. The next day, the mother contacted law enforcement to report the incident and stated she waited to report because she did not want to upset the guests in her home. Law enforcement referred the case to DHS because S.W. was in the car during this incident. The mother and father admitted they were under the influence of methamphetamine at the time.

         S.W. was adjudicated as a child in need of assistance (CINA) on June 22, 2017. After more than one year of offered services, the State filed a petition to terminate parental rights on July 26, 2018. A hearing was held on September 13. On September 27, the district court found the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The mother and father appeal.

         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 . . . ." 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.; accord Iowa Code ยง 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 ...


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