IN THE INTEREST OF A.K. and T.K., Minor Children, J.E., n/k/a J.H., Mother, Petitioner-Appellee, D.P., Father, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Linnea M.N.
Nichol, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
R. Gonzales of Law Firm of Cory R. Gonzales PLLC, Strawberry
Point, for appellant.
Independence, pro se appellee. John J. Sullivan of Sullivan
Law Office, Oelwein, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Bower, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.
mother and father had two children together. Also living in
the household were the mother's children from a former
relationship. The father sexually abused one of these
children. He subsequently pled guilty to third-degree sexual
abuse and lascivious acts with a child and was sentenced to
prison terms not exceeding ten years and five years
respectively, to be served consecutively.
years after the father was released from prison, the mother
petitioned to terminate the father's parental rights,
alleging the father "abandoned the child[ren]" and
was "imprisoned for a crime against . . . another child
in the household." The district court granted the
petition pursuant to Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)
(abandonment) and (9) (imprisonment) (2018).
appeal, the father contends the mother failed to prove the
cited grounds for termination. We need not address the
abandonment ground because termination was warranted under
the imprisonment ground. See In re Q.G., 911 N.W.2d
761, 770-71 (Iowa 2018) (stating imprisoned parent "met
the threshold requirement for private termination by clear
and convincing evidence. It is thus not necessary for us to
decide the abandonment . . . issue" (citing Iowa Code
Code section 600A.8(9) authorizes termination where
"[t]he parent has been imprisoned for a crime against
the child, the child's sibling, or another child in the
household, or the parent has been imprisoned and it is
unlikely that the parent will be released from prison for a
period of five or more years." The provision
"details two different grounds for termination as
demarked by the provision's use of the word
'or.'" In re A.H.B., 791 N.W.2d 687,
689 (Iowa 2010).
[A] parent currently or previously imprisoned for a
sex crime against their child, their child's sibling, or
another child in the household can be denied their parental
rights, or a parent currently imprisoned for any
other crime and unlikely to be released from imprisonment for
five years can also have their parental rights terminated.
Id. at 690 (emphasis added). In other words,
"the juvenile courts have grounds to terminate parental
rights of parents who have been imprisoned, previously or
currently, for sex acts against their child, their
child's sibling, or another child in the household."
father does not dispute that he was imprisoned for a sex
crime against a child in the household. He argues he was not
presently imprisoned "with the unlikelihood of being
released for a period of five years" and the child he
abused "was over the age of 18 and no longer a member of
the household." Under the supreme court's
construction of section 600A.8(9), both arguments are
immaterial. The first prong of section 600A.8(9) was
satisfied because the father was previously imprisoned for a
sex crime against a child in the household, and the second
prong relating to present imprisonment was not implicated.
father also argues termination was not in the children's
best interests. See A.H.B., 791 N.W.2d at 690
("Once the court has found a statutory ground for
termination under a chapter 600A termination, the court must
further determine whether the termination is in the best
interest of the child."). The district court found
otherwise. After summarizing the father's reasons for
wanting contact with the ...