IN THE INTEREST OF J.J., Minor Child, D.J., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda
Belcher, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
D. Lubinus of Lubinus Law Firm, PLLC, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines,
attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
minor child. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting the grounds for termination and contends
termination is not in the child's best interests. The
father additionally challenges the denial of his motion to
reconsider, enlarge, or amend the juvenile court's
Background Facts and Proceedings
the father, and M.M., the mother, are the parents of J.J.,
born in 2016. The mother has children from other
relationships. J.J. came to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) in March 2017 after the
father caused a large bruise to the eye of one of the
mother's other children. While DHS investigated the
injury, it received additional reports about the parents'
drug use and the father's physical abuse of J.J. The
mother reported the father grabbed and threw a car seat that
J.J. was then buckled into out of a vehicle, causing the
child to fall out of the car seat and land on the pavement.
This led to J.J. hitting her head on the pavement. When the
mother attempted to care for the child, the father physically
assaulted the mother, which resulted in the child suffering
further bruising and abrasions. The parents did not take the
child to the hospital immediately, and the mother lied to the
police after they arrived to do a welfare check based on a
J.J. received medical care, doctors discovered a skull
fracture and an older, healing leg fracture. DHS informed the
mother that the father should not have contact with her or
the children. However, after the child was discharged from
the hospital, the mother returned to the father. The father
attacked the mother again with the child present. The child
was removed from the parents' care and initially placed
with the maternal grandmother but was subsequently moved into
foster care. DHS returned founded child-abuse assessments
against the father for denial of critical care and physical
abuse for the injuries sustained by both J.J. and the
mother's other child.
father was arrested for domestic assault and child
endangerment, and a protective order was established
preventing the father's contact with either the mother or
the child. He ultimately pled guilty to domestic abuse, third
offense. The father remained incarcerated during the entirety
of the pendency of this case and did not have visitation with
the child. He has a history of domestic violence toward the
mother and previous paramours, including two
domestic-abuse-assault convictions, and he is the subject of
several protective orders. The father also has a history of
ignoring and violating protective orders. During the pendency
of this case, the father tried to contact the mother while in
jail, despite the protective order. His parental rights to
another child were terminated in September 2016 due to his
unresolved substance-abuse and physical-violence issues.
juvenile court adjudicated the child in need of assistance
(CINA) in May 2017. In January 2018, the father requested
modification of the protective order between himself and the
child so visitation could occur. In May, the district court
granted the modification, stating the father and child
"may have contact by DHS recommendation and through
their supervision." In its September report to the
court, DHS stated that, despite the modification of the
protective order, it had not yet offered visitation between
the child and father. It stated its reasoning for the denial
was due in part to the distance between the child's
foster-care placement and the prison where the father was
located. DHS's "best practice for young children is
visits that are happening for shorter amounts of time and
more frequently." Since the prison was two hours away
from the child's foster home, it would require the child
to be in a car for four hours to have a short visit with the
father. Given that the father had not seen the child for over
a year and the child's young age, DHS felt this
arrangement would not be in the child's best interests.
Further, DHS remained concerned about the father's
reported denial of harming the child when he threw the car
seat. The juvenile court ultimately terminated the
father's parental rights to J.J. in December 2018. The