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In re T.A.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.A., Minor Child, T.A., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Virginia Cobb, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          REVERSED AND REMANDED. Charles E. Isaacson of Charles Isaacson Law P.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

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

          Kayla Ann J. Stratton of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Jessica A. Millage, Des Moines, for intervenors.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (e), and (f) (2018).[1] He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the grounds for termination under each of these paragraphs.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The child was born in March 2014. The father lived with the mother and the child for approximately one month after the child was born. Thereafter, the father's contact with the child was inconsistent. The father contends the mother prevented him from seeing the child, though the father claims he spoke with the child weekly by phone after moving to Florida in 2016 and sent the mother money for the child's support.

         The child was removed from the mother's care in February 2017 and was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance. The father moved back to Iowa and had supervised visits with the child until October 2017. His last visit with the child occurred on October 3, 2017. The father did not attempt to set up further visits with the child until February 2018, the same month the State petitioned to terminate the father's parental rights. Because the father had not seen the child in four months, the Department of Human Services (DHS) worker told him the visits needed to occur in a therapeutic environment with the child's therapist.

         The father contacted the child's therapist to set up a visit. However, after observing the child's "anxious response" at the prospect of being separated from the maternal grandparents, with whom the child was placed, the therapist recommended suspending visitation until the juvenile court determined whether to terminate the father's parental rights. In a letter dated March 26, 2018, the child's therapist wrote:

With a termination hearing coming up it would be damaging to start the process of establishing a relationship between [the father] and [the child] if [the father]'s rights may be terminated. Should [the father]'s rights not be terminated it is recommended that contact with [the child] first take place in a therapeutic environment before moving to other types of visitation. [The child] has a ...

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