IN THE INTEREST OF Z.M., Minor Child, S.M., Custodian, Petitioner-Appellee,
C.M.-G., Mother, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott,
biological mother appeals the juvenile court's
termination of her parental rights in a private termination
L. Corwin of Corwin Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant
L. McCormally of McCormally & Cosgrove, P.L.L.C., Des
Moines, for appellee custodian.
Bullock of Newkirk Zwagerman, P.L.C., Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
appeals the juvenile court's termination of her parental
rights to her biological child, Z.M., in a private
termination action. The juvenile court terminated
C.M.-G.'s parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section
600A.8(1) (2017), which allows the court to terminate when
the parent signed a release of custody and the release has
not been revoked. C.M.-G maintains she revoked her release
of custody within the ninety-six hours contemplated by the
statute. See Iowa Code § 600A.4(4) ("[A]
parent who has signed a release of custody . . . may, at any
time prior to the entry of an order terminating parental
rights, request the juvenile court . . . to order the
revocation of any release of custody previously executed by
either parent. If such request is by a signing parent, and is
within ninety-six hours of the time such parent signed a
release of custody, the juvenile court shall order the
release revoked."). Alternatively, she maintains the
juvenile court should have allowed her to revoke the release
after the ninety-six hours elapsed because she established
good cause for the revocation. She contends she demonstrated
good cause because (1) the release was obtained by fraud,
coercion, or misrepresentation of law or fact and (2) she did
not understand the release at the time she signed
Finally, C.M.-G argues the court should not have granted the
petition to terminate her parental rights because it is not
in Z.M.'s best interests.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
is the biological mother of Z.M. She is also the biological
mother of three other children, who remain in her care. When
C.M.-G. first learned she was pregnant with Z.M.-in the fall
of 2016-C.M.-G reached out to D.M. and his wife, E.M.,
indicating she would need help with the child after the
birth. D.M. is C.M.-G's adoptive brother, but the two
characterize their relationship as one more typical of an
uncle and a niece due to the difference in their ages.
to D.M., at the time C.M.-G. first indicated she would need
help after the baby was born, he indicated a willingness to
help her like he does with her other three children-often
caring for them on weekends or helping to provide for their
financial needs. Otherwise, D.M. made it clear to C.M.-G.
that he and E.M. were not interested in caring for the child
in their home for an extended period of time unless they were
allowed to adopt the child.
and C.M.-G did not speak of adoption again until after
C.M.-G. gave birth in June 2017. C.M.-G. called D.M. and E.M.
from the hospital and again asked for their help. Then, after
she and Z.M. were discharged, she called D.M. and asked him
to pick up Z.M. to take the child to his home. D.M. and E.M.
took the child, and they have continued to care for her since
18, E.M., D.M., C.M.-G, and C.M.-G.'s husband went to the
law office of Shayla McCormally-E.M. and D.M.'s lawyer-in
order for C.M.-G. and C.M.-G's husband to sign releases
of custody. C.M.-G was told that McCormally was not her
attorney. The four were at the office approximately two hours
before C.M.-G. signed the release of custody. The release
provides in part, in bold and capital letters:
I have been informed that as a person signing the release of
custody I may petition the juvenile court in Polk County,
Iowa within 96 hours after signing this release of custody,
in which case the juvenile court must order this release
revoked. I have also been informed that after 96 hours the
juvenile court may order the release revoked only upon clear
and convincing evidence that good cause exists for such
revocation. I have been informed that good cause for
revocation includes but is not limited to a showing that this
release of custody was obtained by fraud, coercion or
misrepresentation of law or fact which was material to its
called McCormally a number of times on the day before the
ninety-six-hour window expired. At least once, she told
McCormally she did not want to go through with the release of
custody and ultimately the adoption. However, either later in
the same call or in another call to the attorney, C.M.-G
reported that she had changed her mind again and wanted to
leave the release intact. In response to her calls,
McCormally reminded C.M.-G. she was not her attorney, advised
her to contact an attorney, and told her that if she wanted
to revoke the release of custody, she needed to contact the
juvenile court in ...