IN THE INTEREST OF K.J. and K.S., Minor Children, A.S., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Andrew
Smith, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
Jessica R. Noll of Deck Law PLC, Sioux City, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Thali of Juvenile Law Center, Sioux City, attorney and
guardian ad litem for the children.
L. Bixenman of Murphy, Collins, Bixenman & McGill,
P.L.C., Le Mars, for appellee father of K.J.
J. Huyser, of Rensink, Pluim, Vogel & Huyser, Orange
City, for appellee father of K.S.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights in her
children, K.J. and K.S. She asserts the State failed to prove
the grounds for termination found by the juvenile court and
termination is not in the children's best interests. She
also contends the juvenile court should have granted her six
more months to work toward reunification. Our review is de
novo. See In re L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 526 (Iowa
Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018), parental rights may be
terminated if the following three conditions are true: (1) a
"ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has
been established" by clear and convincing evidence, (2)
"the best-interest framework as laid out in section
232.116(2) supports the termination of parental rights,"
and (3) none of the "exceptions in section 232.116(3)
apply to preclude termination of parental rights."
In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018). The
juvenile court can also defer termination of parental rights
if "specific factors, conditions, or expected behavioral
changes" lead the court to "determin[e] that the
need for removal of the child from the child's home will
no longer exist at the end of [an] additional six-month
period." Iowa Code § 232.104(2)(b). In determining
whether termination of parental rights is in a child's
best interests, we give "primary consideration to the
child's safety, to the best placement for furthering the
long-term nurturing and growth of the child, and to the
physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the
child." Id. § 232.116(2).
juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights
under Iowa Code section 232.116(1) paragraphs (d), (i),
(l) for both children, (f) for K.J., and (h) for
K.S. "When the juvenile court terminates parental rights
on more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile
court's order on any ground we find supported by the
record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa
2012). We focus on paragraphs (f) and (h), which allow the
court to terminate parental rights if a child of a specified
age has been adjudicated child in need of assistance, has
been out of the parent's custody for the requisite time,
and cannot be returned to the parent at present without
continued risk of adjudicatory harm. Here, the mother does not
dispute the State's proof concerning the elements of that
section. Rather, because the children are in their
fathers' custody, she argues the juvenile court should
not have terminated her parental rights.
of the child in one parent's home does not preclude
termination of the other parent's rights. See In re
N.M., 491 N.W.2d 153, 155 (Iowa 1992); see also In
re D.E.D., 476 N.W.2d 737, 740 (Iowa Ct. App. 1991)
(affirming the termination of a mother's parental rights
but reversing and remanding as to the father, who had not
received adequate notice of the grounds for termination),
overruled on other grounds by In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d
33, 39 (Iowa 2010). Though termination of parental rights
"is an outcome of last resort," N.M., 491
N.W.2d at 155, "our fundamental concern is the best
interests of the child." In re M.D., 921 N.W.2d
229, 232 (Iowa 2018). We recognize the children are in the
custody of their respective fathers, who can keep the
children safe. But the mother's argument fails to
consider the harm the children have suffered because of the
long-term, ongoing instability in their lives. See
N.M., 491 N.W.2d at 155. Considering the children's
safety, the best placement for furthering the long-term
nurturing and growth of the children, and the children's
physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs, we find
termination of the mother's parental rights is in the
children's best interests even though each child is in
the custody of his and her father, and we cannot conclude the
need for removal will no longer exist at the end of six
this case began in October 2017, there were concerns about
the mother's ability to parent the children safely. The
application for removal reported that law enforcement
officials had been ...