IN THE INTEREST OF R.M., E.M., K.M., C.M., E.M., and L.M., Minor Children, C.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Cass County, Amy Zacharias,
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
K. Bothwell of Bothwell Law Office, Logan, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Mailander of Mailander Law, PLC, Anita, guardian ad litem
for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
appeal concerns the termination of a mother's parental
rights to six children. Under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018),
the court must engage in this three-step analysis to
terminate parental rights:
First, the court must determine if a ground for termination
under section 232.116(1) has been established. If a ground
for termination is established, the court must, secondly,
apply the best-interest framework set out in section
232.116(2) to decide if the grounds for termination should
result in a termination of parental rights. Third, if the
statutory best-interest framework supports termination of
parental rights, the court must consider if any statutory
exceptions set out in section 232.116(3) should serve to
preclude termination of parental rights.
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706-07 (Iowa 2010)
(internal citations omitted). Seeking reversal of the order
terminating her parental rights, the mother challenges the
evidence supporting the juvenile court's findings at each
step of this analysis and also contends the State failed to
make reasonable efforts to return the children to her care.
In the alternative, she requests an additional three to six
months to reunify with her children.
review the decision to terminate parental rights de novo.
See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).
Although the factual findings of the juvenile court are not
binding, we do give them weight, especially in assessing
witness credibility. See id.
mother first contends the State failed to prove the grounds
for termination by clear and convincing evidence. The
juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights
under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (f), (h), and (i). We
may affirm if clear and convincing evidence supports one of
the grounds for termination. See In re T.S., 868
N.W.2d 425, 435 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).
requirements for terminating parental rights under section
232.116(1) (f) and (h) differ on the length of the
child's removal from the parent's care based on the
age of the child. But both require clear and convincing
evidence that returning the child to the parent's care at
the time of the termination hearing would expose the child to
harm that would lead to a child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA)
adjudication. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4),
(1)(h)(4) (each requiring "clear and convincing evidence
that at the present time the child cannot be returned to the
custody of the child's parents as provided in section
232.102"); D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707
(interpreting the term "at the present time" to
mean "at the time of the termination hearing");
In re M.S., 889 N.W.2d 675, 680 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016)
("[A] child cannot be returned to the custody of the
child's parent under section 232.102 if by doing so the