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In re L.V.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF L.V., M.V., and L.V., Minor Children, A.V., Mother, Appellant, R.V., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Jeffrey A. Smith, Oskaloosa, for appellant mother.

          Michael S. Fisher of Fisher Law Office, Oskaloosa, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Misty White Willis of White Law Office, Sigourney, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their minor children: L.V.1, born in January 2010; M.V., born in July 2012; and L.V.2, born in February 2014. Both argue termination is not in the best interests of the children and the State failed to provide adequate services to both parents. Finding neither precludes termination, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) first took notice of this family on February 26, 2016, after allegations the father repeatedly spanked L.V.1 with a belt, leaving welts and bruising. L.V.1 was treated for her injuries in the emergency room. A safety plan was created, which provided the father would not return to the family home, and the mother was allowed to take L.V.1, M.V., and L.V.2 home. The mother agreed to contact DHS if the father returned. The father told DHS L.V.1 did not do anything wrong before he spanked her, he was just angry. However, the father later retracted this assertion and stated his attorney told him to lie and say he acted out of anger.

         On or around March 9, DHS received a phone call from a confidential informant claiming the father had continued to be around the children since February 26. According to the informant, L.V.1 had fresh fingerprint-shaped bruises, L.V.1 stated her father hit her with his hand "because the policeman took his belt," and the father had previously kicked M.V. Because the mother violated the safety plan and there were reports of further abuse, the children were removed on March 10 and placed in the care of their maternal grandmother. The children were adjudicated children in need of assistance on March 29. After more than one year of offered services, the father's incarceration, and little progress by the mother to support reunification, the State filed a petition to terminate parental rights on May 31, 2017. A termination hearing was held on December 13. On July 16, 2018, the district court found the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f), (h), and (i) (2017). The mother and father separately appeal.[1]

         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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