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In re C.O.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF C.O., Minor Child, K.O., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child. AFFIRMED.

          Francis P. Hurley of Phil Watson P.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit and John McCormally (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Karl Wolle of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, Chief Judge.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to C.O., born in August 2017. She argues the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), and (h) (2018). In addition, she asserts termination is not in the best interests of the child and the willingness of a relative to assume legal custody precludes termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a). We find the mother has waived any claim of error under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h), the child's best interests are served by terminating the mother's parental rights, and no relative has legal custody of the child to preclude termination.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with the family in August 2017, when C.O. tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine at birth. The mother admitted to the use of methamphetamine in the week leading up to C.O.'s birth. While C.O. was still in the hospital, the mother left, did not return, and did not participate in a child-abuse assessment. Her whereabouts remained unknown until she was later arrested on several drug-related felony charges in September. The mother has a long history of substance abuse and has previously had her parental rights terminated for two other children.[1]

         The State filed a petition to terminate parental rights in March 2018. A termination hearing was held in two parts: beginning on May 24 and concluding on June 7. On July 24, the district court found the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), and (h). The mother appeals.[2]

         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 § 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 serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness [of] conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000).

         III. Grounds ...


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