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In re T.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 23, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.S., Minor Child, S.G., Mother, Petitioner-Appellant, T.A.S., Father, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Daniel L. Block, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court's decision denying her petition seeking to terminate the father's parental rights.

          Lori L. Nelson of The Sayer Law Group, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant. T.A.S., Waterloo, pro se appellee father.

          Timothy J. Luce of Anfinson & Luce, PLC, Waterloo, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the district court's decision denying her petition seeking to terminate the father's parental rights. We find the father abandoned the child and termination is in the child's best interest. We reverse the juvenile court's decision.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         S.G., mother, and T.A.S., father, are the parents of a child, T.S., born in 2012. The parents never married. The parents' relationship ended in August 2012, several months after the child's birth, after the father was charged with domestic abuse assault against the mother. A five-year protective order was put in place for the mother.

         After the parties separated, the father was convicted of further domestic abuse assault charges and child endangerment for another child. No custodial order or request for support has been filed with the court. The father has not seen or sought contact with the child since 2013.

         The mother has full-time employment and is able to meet all of the child's needs. The mother lives near her parents' home and her brother's family. In March 2018, the mother established a co-guardianship with her parents to ensure her child's future care. The mother is presently engaged to be married.

         In March 2018 the mother filed a petition to terminate the father's parental rights. Following nine separate attempts by the mother to serve the petition on the father, including in person at his home addresses and work address and phone calls to all phone numbers found, the court authorized notice via publication. The father did not oppose the petition, appear in court, or otherwise show any interest in maintaining his parental rights. The mother and maternal grandfather testified at the hearing. The child's guardian ad litem stated at the close of the hearing that termination of the father's parental rights "may be in the child's best interest."

         On July 6, the district court ruled the father had abandoned the child-the father provided no support for the child, had no relationship with the child, and had not had or sought contact with the child since 2013. The court found the child had a right to financial support from the father and the father did not pose a threat to the child; the court ruled terminating the father's parental rights was "not in the child's or the community's best interests." The court dismissed the mother's petition to terminate the father's rights.

         The mother filed a motion to reconsider, enlarge, or amend pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904. The mother provided documentation of the father's criminal history including domestic abuse assaults, child endangerment, and positive drug ...


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