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In re D.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 21, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.K., Minor Child, K.E., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, B.S., Father, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Appanoose County, William Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his minor child. AFFIRMED.

          Monte McCoy of McCoy Legal Services, Centerville, for appellant father.

          Alan M. Wilson of Miles Law Firm, Corydon, for appellee mother.

          Jonathan Willier, Centerville, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child, D.K., who was four years old at the time of the termination hearing. The district court terminated the father's parental rights under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b) (2018). On appeal, the father argues the termination of his parental rights is supported by insufficient evidence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The mother and father were eighteen and seventeen years old respectively when D.K. was born. D.K., the parents, and some members of the mother and father's families all lived together in Galva, Illinois. In March or April 2015, the mother and her family decided to leave Galva with D.K. and move to Centerpoint, Iowa, where the mother's family had lived in the past. The father did not want the mother to take D.K., and either he or his family contacted law enforcement to prevent the mother from moving D.K. to Iowa. The father was informed that, because he was a minor, the mother was D.K.'s "legal custodian" and could move D.K. to Iowa without his permission.

         On April 15, 2015, the mother applied for relief from domestic abuse. On May 11, 2015, the district court entered a protective order granting the mother temporary legal custody of D.K. subject to the father's right to arrange visitation with D.K. at the home of R.E., D.K.'s maternal grandmother. The parents agreed to arrange times for the father to visit D.K. by contacting R.E. through social media. The protective order did not specify how the father was supposed to contact R.E. The district court renewed the protective order for another year on May 26, 2016, and the renewed order adopted the same custody and visitation provisions.

         The father only visited D.K. once between April 2015 and the November 2018 termination hearing. The visit occurred on Easter 2016 and lasted for one hour. The father and his family asked R.E. about arranging two other visits, but R.E.'s health did not permit either visit to take place. The mother and R.E. offered to pay for the father's train ticket to visit D.K., but the father declined. The father had no other contact with D.K. throughout the termination proceedings.

         Once the renewed protection order expired on May 16, 2017, R.E. either blocked or unfriended the father on social media. While the parties dispute whether R.E. blocked or unfriended the father, undisputed testimony suggests the father would be able to message R.E. if she unfriended him, but would not be able to message R.E. if she blocked him. The parties also dispute whether the father could contact the mother or R.E. through other means. The father had gone to R.E.'s house for the Easter 2016 visit, although he testified that he had forgotten where she lived. He also knew R.E.'s phone number, although at the termination hearing he testified she had blocked his phone number and his mother's phone number. Both the mother and R.E. testified the father never tried to contact them after the renewed protection order expired.

         The mother filed the petition to terminate parental rights, and a hearing took place in August 2018. The mother testified the father had only sent her $600 in child support, and had not sent D.K. any presents or cards for D.K.'s birthday or for any holidays. The father admitted he made no other arrangements to visit D.K. besides the Easter 2016 visit. The district court determined the father had abandoned D.K. under Iowa Code ...


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