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In re A.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., Minor Child, C.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dickinson County, David C. Larson, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court order terminating his parental rights.

          Michael H. Johnson, Spirit Lake, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Pamela Wingert of Wingert Law Office, Spirit Lake, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Gamble, S.J. [*]

          GAMBLE, Senior Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court order terminating his parental rights. We conclude the father waived his claim the State did not engage in reasonable efforts to reunite him with the child, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support termination, the juvenile court properly denied the father's request for additional time, and termination is in the child's best interests. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         C.M., father, and P.D., mother, are the parents of A.M., born in 2017. The child tested positive for marijuana at birth, and both parents admitted marijuana use. On July 5, 2017, the juvenile court adjudicated the child to be in need of assistance (CINA), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(a), (c)(2), and (n) (2017). The parents voluntarily placed the child with the maternal great- grandmother in August based on the father's continued use of alcohol and an arrest for third-degree assault.

         In April 2018, Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) temporarily placed the child in the father's care. The father completed a substance-abuse treatment program in May. After this, the mother reported seeing the father drink beer. On June 5, while the children were in his custody in his apartment, the father decided to clean a sawed-off shotgun after taking an Ambien and drinking alcohol. The gun accidentally discharged near a portable crib in the father's bedroom. Although he previously admitted to a neighbor that he was drinking prior to the gunshot, he now denies drinking and claims the neighbor misunderstood him. Nevertheless, the father admits using prescription Ambien prior to discharging the weapon, and it is undisputed he was prohibited from having guns in the home due to prior convictions for domestic abuse. The juvenile court returned the child to the care of the maternal great-grandmother.

         The father's landlord evicted him from his apartment after the gunshot incident. Police charged the father with public intoxication on June 15. The father moved to his current apartment on June 20. There was a hole in the ceiling in the bathroom. The apartment was unsuitable for visitation until the ceiling was repaired shortly before the termination hearing.

         On November 6, the State filed a petition seeking to terminate the parents' rights. The father had a new substance-abuse evaluation, which recommended follow-up treatment. The father contacted a counselor, who did not return his call, and the father did not do any more to seek treatment. He attended a few AA or NA meetings.

         The juvenile court terminated the father's parental rights under section 232.116(1)(h) (2018).[1] The court found the child could not be safely returned to the father's care on a long-term basis. The court determined the State had engaged in reasonable efforts to reunite the child with the father. The court concluded termination of the father's parental rights was in the child's best interests based on the child's need for permanency. Additionally, the court concluded none of the statutory exceptions to termination ...


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