IN THE INTEREST OF J.M., B.M., and L.M., Minor Children, K.N., Mother, Appellant, J.M., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A.
Owen, District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of
Daniela Matasovic of Matasovic Law Firm, Ames, for appellant
mother. Patrick C. Peters of Payer, Hunziker, Rhodes &
Peters, LLP, Ames, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Shannon M. Leighty of Public Defender's Office, Nevada,
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle,
the father and K.N. is the mother of L.M., B.M., and J.M.,
born in 2013, 2014, and 2017, respectively. Following a
trial, the juvenile court terminated the parents'
parental rights, and each parent now appeals the court's
order. Upon our de novo review of the record, we affirm.
Standard of Review and Statutory Framework.
rights may be terminated under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018)
if the following three conditions are true: (1) a
"ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has
been established" by clear and convincing evidence, (2)
"the best-interest framework as laid out in section
232.116(2) supports the termination of parental rights,"
and (3) none of the "exceptions in section 232.116(3)
apply to preclude termination of parental rights."
In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018). Our
review is de novo, which means we give the juvenile
court's findings of fact weight, especially the
court's credibility assessments, but we are not bound by
those findings. See id. at 472. "For evidence
to be 'clear and convincing,' it is merely necessary
that there be no serious or substantial doubt about the
correctness of the conclusion drawn from it." Raim
v. Stancel, 339 N.W.2d 621, 624 (Iowa Ct. App. 1983);
see also In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa
2016). Our fundamental concern is the children's best
interests. See In re K.N., 625 N.W.2d 731, 733 (Iowa
Background Facts and Proceedings.
The parents and children came to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) in February 2017 when the
mother visited the hospital and tested positive for
methamphetamine (meth). The State also alleged that both
parents cared for the two older children while under the
influence of meth. Shortly thereafter, the mother gave birth
to the youngest of the three children and both she and the
child tested positive for meth. The mother also tested
positive for amphetamines and opiates. In March, the parents
stipulated to removal and the children were adjudicated
children in need of assistance (CINA).
In re J.M., No. 17-2073, 2018 WL 1182544, at *1
(Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 7, 2018).
were offered to the family, and the parents were given
multiple opportunities to put their children first and obtain
and maintain sobriety. See id. at *1-6.
Nevertheless, the parents' progress was minimal until the
juvenile court directed the State to file petitions for
termination of each parents' parental rights. See
id. Following the November 2017
termination-of-parental-rights hearing, the court entered its
order the following month denying the termination petitions.
See id. Although the court found the State
proved one of the grounds for termination, the court
concluded the children's best interests were served by
granting the parents six additional months to work toward
[B]oth the mother and father have now experienced the longest
period of sobriety known to this court. The mother has been
sober for approximately two months. The father has been sober
for just over four months and has been provided mental health
therapy and medication. Both parents have sought the
assistance of supportive relatives to assist them in
continuing sobriety. Both parents have reasonable and
credible plans for their future. [The father] acknowledges
the codependent relationship between himself and [the