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In re J.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 5, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF J.C. and O.C., Minor Children, J.C., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court's decision to waive the department of human services' obligation to make reasonable efforts towards reunification.

          Christine E. Branstad of Branstad & Olson Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Nicole Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          Vaitheswaran, Presiding Judge.

         Three children were removed from parental custody after a state trooper saw them in the bed of a pickup truck driven by their father, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs. The children were adjudicated in need of assistance.

         The children's attorney and guardian ad litem filed a motion to waive the department of human services' obligation to make reasonable efforts towards reunification. See generally In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 493 (Iowa 2000) (explaining the obligation and a statutory amendment permitting waiver of the obligation). The attorney cited a prior juvenile court action involving the parents of these children and their abuse of drugs and asserted there were aggravated circumstances warranting the waiver under Iowa Code section 232.104(14)(b) (2018). The department resisted the motion. In written argument to the court, counsel for the department asserted, "The Department does not believe services would be futile in this case" and the risk of termination of parental rights if reasonable efforts were waived is not a risk that should be taken "at this juncture," given the children's needs and interests, as well as those of the father. Following an evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court waived the reasonable-efforts obligation.

         The father filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. The Iowa Supreme Court concluded the question of whether the appealed order was final would be determined with the appeal. The appeal was transferred to the court of appeals for disposition.

         The father argues the juvenile court abused its discretion in waiving reasonable efforts. He also asks for bifurcation of the role of the children's attorney, who also serves as guardian ad litem.

         I. Finality of Order Waiving Reasonable Efforts Obligation

         Preliminary, we address the supreme court's inquiry "whether the dispositional order waiving reasonable efforts is a final order appealable as a matter of right or an interlocutory order."

         Iowa Code section 232.133(1) states in part: "An interested party aggrieved by an order or decree of the juvenile court may appeal from the court for review of questions of law or fact." "The statute provides no special basis for an appeal as a matter of right. As with all other orders, appealability depends on whether a juvenile court order is found to be 'final.'" In re W.D., 562 N.W.2d 183, 185 (Iowa 1997). "[A]n appealable order in a juvenile case is one that disposes of all issues, including disposition." In re Long,313 N.W.2d 473, 476 (Iowa 1981). A child-in-need-of-assistance adjudication without a disposition is not a final order. Id. at ...


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