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In re P.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 21, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF P.M., B.M., and L.M., Minor Children, J.M and H.M., Guardians, Petitioners-Appellees, J.M., Father, Respondent-Appellant, H.R., Mother, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Amy L. Zacharias, Judge.

         Parents appeal the termination of their parental rights to their three minor children under Iowa Code chapter 600A (2018).

          Marti D. Nerenstone, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

          Justin R. Wyatt of Woods & Wyatt, PLLC, Glenwood, for appellant mother.

          Katherine Kaminsky Murphy of Kate Murphy Law, P.L.C., Glenwood, for appellees.

          Jaclyn A. Tackett of Tackett Law Offices, Glenwood, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         Parents Joshua and Hanna each appeal the termination of their parental rights to their three minor children, P.M., B.M., and L.M. The district court granted the guardians' petition to terminate both parents' rights under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b) (2018). Both parents argue insufficient evidence supported a finding that they abandoned the children and termination of their parental rights is not in the children's best interest. We affirm the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Joshua and Hanna are the biological parents of P.M., B.M., and L.M., who, at the time of the termination hearing, were twelve, eight, and nine years old, respectively. All three children have been in the guardianship of their paternal grandparents, Janette and Harry, since March 2011. P.M. lived with the guardians part time from November 2007 to August 2009, and then full time from August 2009 until March 2011. B.M. and L.M. lived with Joshua and Hanna until Janette and Harry became their guardians.

         Joshua and Hanna tried to terminate the guardianships twice, although the second petition to terminate the guardianships was continued multiple times and neither parent had asked for a hearing on it by the day of the termination hearing. In the August 2013 order denying the first petition to terminate guardianship, the district court noted visits between Joshua, Hannah, and the children had been stopped pursuant to a Department of Human Services (DHS) recommendation because of allegations of methamphetamine use by the parents. The court also noted the parents had not "consistently attended the counseling and medical care visits of the children," cooperated with the DHS investigation of the allegations of drug use by the parents, or "kept the guardians updated as to their living arrangements and home address as well as work address," as required by a prior order. The court directed the parents to keep the guardians informed of their contact information, provide documentation of living arrangements and proof of clean drug tests to the court, and attend supervised therapy sessions with the children's therapist.

         The parents did not comply with the court's order. They never gave the guardians their contact information, although Janette got Joshua's phone number from her phone when he contacted her in early 2018. At the August 2018 termination hearing, the counselor with whom the supervised visits were supposed to take place testified that the visits never occurred. The parents had scheduled one visit in October 2015, but the visit was later cancelled. At the termination hearing, the parents produced an unsigned copy of a lease beginning in August 2018. The parents also produced clean drug test results, but the drug tests they had taken were not the hair follicle tests specifically required by the court in the August 2013 order.

         Except for two instances, the parents did not have any contact with the children between August 2013 and August 2018. The first occasion was a chance encounter at a restaurant in 2015, and the second instance was contact with P.M. through Facebook starting in December 2017 and ending in January 2018. Neither contact was supervised by the ...


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