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Wilson v. Jacques

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 5, 2019

ADRIAN DARIUS WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHELSEA RAE JACQUES, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Arthur E. Gamble, Judge.

         Chelsea Jacques appeals the district court's decree ordering custody of her child with Adrian Wilson and ruling on her petition to disestablish Wilson's paternity of the child.

          Lisa M. Noble of Lisa Noble Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Joseph G. Bertogli, Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*] Gamble, S.J., takes no part.

          MAHAN, Senior Judge.

         Chelsea Jacques appeals the district court's decree ordering custody of her child with Adrian Wilson and ruling on her petition to disestablish Wilson's paternity of the child. Upon our review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Chelsea and Adrian had an "on-and-off" relationship for several years prior to 2016. Chelsea gave birth to V.A.W. on April 19, 2016. At the hospital on the day of V.A.W.'s birth, Adrian informed Chelsea that "there was going to be another one." At that point, Chelsea learned Adrian had a girlfriend, Mindy, who was also pregnant. Chelsea was devastated as she believed she and Adrian were going to get married and "have a family together."

         Adrian questioned whether V.A.W. was his child because he believed the child looked a different race. Nevertheless, Chelsea gave V.A.W. Adrian's last name. Chelsea and Adrian completed an affidavit of paternity at the hospital, but it was returned as incomplete by the Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Vital Statistics because it lacked proper identification and a notary seal.

         Both Chelsea and Adrian have a history of drug use. V.A.W. was born testing positive for the presence of marijuana.[1] Chelsea smoked marijuana with Adrian prior to the child's birth.[2] A department of human services (DHS) investigation resulted in a founded child-abuse assessment against Chelsea; the report was completed in May 2016, and the case was closed.

         Chelsea and Adrian took V.A.W. home from the hospital to Brent Bruton's residence in Ames, where Chelsea lived.[3] After a few days, Chelsea informed her DHS caseworker that she was moving to Colorado because Adrian denied V.A.W. was his child and he had gotten another woman pregnant. Chelsea returned to Iowa after about one week. Chelsea did not allow Adrian to see V.A.W. for several months. But she let Adrian visit V.A.W. on Father's Day, and after that, she let him see the child "whenever he wanted to."

         Sometime around July 22, 2016, [4] Chelsea brought V.A.W. to Adrian's apartment in Saylorville for a visit. She brought an affidavit of paternity with her. According to Chelsea, she left the affidavit blank and told Adrian he needed to complete a DNA test before she would be ready to sign it. In contrast, Adrian stated he and Chelsea both signed the affidavit that day. Mindy, who is a notary, testified Chelsea signed it in the hallway of the apartment that day but did not date her signature. Mindy stated Adrian signed the affidavit of paternity on July 27, and on that same day, she took the affidavit "to work to put [her] notary stamp on it."[5]Mindy stated she wrote the date "July 27" next to Chelsea's signature "because that was the date [she] notarized it." That affidavit of paternity was accepted by the Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, and a new birth certificate was issued for V.A.W. listing Adrian as the father.

         Meanwhile, when Adrian and Mindy went to Brent's house to return V.A.W. to Chelsea after the July 22 visit, Chelsea was not there. According to Chelsea, she told Adrian to leave V.A.W. with Brent and Cindy Wisecup.[6] Chelsea stated she told Adrian not to bring Mindy with him and she was waiting at Kum & Go nearby until they left so she could go home without having to see Mindy. But according to Adrian and Mindy, Brent and Wisecup informed them that Chelsea was no longer living there.[7] Adrian stated they did not want to leave V.A.W. at Brent's house if Chelsea was not there, so they took the child back to his apartment. In contrast, Brent testified Chelsea had lived at his house for the better part of six to eight years and she was still living there on the day Adrian returned with V.A.W.

         In any event, when Chelsea returned home, V.A.W. was not there. She called Adrian numerous times, but he did not answer. The next day, Chelsea went to Adrian's apartment with the police, but he showed the paternity affidavit to the police and they "told Chelsea that she had to take it to court, it was a civil matter." Since then, V.A.W. has lived with Adrian, Mindy, and their child, who was born a few months after V.A.W.

         On July 28, Adrian filed a petition to establish custody, visitation, and child support, requesting custody of V.A.W., with visitation to Chelsea, and that Chelsea be ordered to pay child support. Chelsea filed an answer, admitting Adrian was V.A.W.'s father, but stating Adrian had "seized the minor child from [her] care and custody through a combination of force and fraud." She requested the court place V.A.W. in her custody "subject only to supervised visitation with [Adrian] as will not endanger the minor child."

         Trial took place over three days in August 2017. The district court heard testimony from Chelsea, Adrian, Mindy, and several other witnesses. At the close of trial, the court noted its concern that the paternity affidavit was "fraudulent," ordered Adrian to complete a DNA test, and left the record open for the results of the test. The court also issued a temporary visitation order allowing Chelsea to have visitation with V.A.W. every Saturday under Brent's supervision.

         The DNA test revealed Adrian is not V.A.W.'s biological father. Chelsea then filed a petition to disestablish paternity, which Adrian resisted. A hearing took place on Chelsea's petition. At the outset, the court stated "notwithstanding [its] suspicions," it would not set aside the affidavit of paternity, concluding that action "would be beyond the scope of these proceedings" and finding Chelsea "has her remedies" if she "wishes to pursue that." Meanwhile, Adrian filed a petition to terminate all putative father's rights to V.A.W., which the court subsequently granted following a hearing.[8]

         The court appointed a guardian ad litem. At a hearing in October, the guardian ad litem opined it was in V.A.W.'s best interest to disestablish Adrian as the child's father, stating although Adrian was "certainly bonded" with V.A.W., he had prevented V.A.W. from having contact with Chelsea "to develop a relationship." The guardian ad litem later retracted from her initial position; in a December report to the court, the guardian ad litem opined it was in V.A.W.'s best interest to be in Adrian's physical care subject to visitation with Chelsea, given the child's close bond with Adrian, the fact that Adrian "has been able to meet all of [V.A.W.'s] basic needs," and the fact that Chelsea continued to struggle with mental-health issues.

         On December 7, 2017, the court entered a decree of custody, visitation, and support, placing V.A.W. in Adrian's care subject to Chelsea's visitation, granting the parties joint legal custody, and ordering Chelsea to pay $62 per month in child support. The court observed both parties "lied repeatedly" throughout the case, with Chelsea's credibility being "only slightly better" than Adrian's. The court noted concerns with "the toxic relationship of the parties; the incident of domestic violence;[9] the tendency of each party to exclude the other from contact with the child; and Chelsea's pledge that she will not co-parent with Adrian."

         The court observed Chelsea was agitated, emotional, and erratic during trial and she admitted to being "off her meds" for bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but noted she sought mental-health care during post-trial proceedings. Chelsea has a criminal history for driving offenses and possession of marijuana, and she served a forty-five-day jail sentence after V.A.W.'s birth. Chelsea had not maintained consistent employment, and she did not have a valid driver's license. Her parental rights to her oldest child were terminated, and she lost custody of her second child. The court found that due to ...


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