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In re M.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M. and C.M., Minor Children, I.M., Mother, Appellant, C.M., Father of M.M., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Buena Vista County, Mary L. Timko, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their respective children.

          Lori J. Kolpin of Kolpin Law Firm, P.C., Aurelia, for appellant mother.

          T. Cody Farrens of Fankhauser, Farrens & Rachel, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Lisa K. Mazurek of Miller, Miller, Miller, P.C., Cherokee, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Greer, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, Senior Judge.

         The mother of C.M. and M.M. and the father of M.M. separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their respective children.[1] The mother challenges the statutory grounds relied upon by the juvenile court for termination, argues the State failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify her and the children, and maintains we should forgo termination because of the closeness of the parent-child bond. The father challenges the statutory grounds relied upon by the juvenile court and maintains termination of his rights is not in M.M.'s best interests. In the alternative, both parents request additional time to work toward reunification with their respective children.

         Because of our ruling on de novo review, laid out below, we find it necessary to address only the final issue. See In re K.R., No. 19-0090, 2019 WL 1486612, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 3, 2019) (declining to consider the three-step analysis of Iowa Code section 232.116 for termination of parental rights when the court deemed an extension of time was appropriate).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2018 after the mother, while at the hospital giving birth to M.M., admitted using methamphetamine within the previous twenty-four hours. DHS learned the mother had also tested positive for methamphetamine at a prenatal visit in March 2018 and that the father has a history of drug-related criminal convictions. The mother had been living with the maternal grandparents off and on, while C.M. had generally lived with them since her birth in early 2016. The grandparents were able and willing to begin caring for M.M. as well, and both children were placed in their care.

         About a week later, the father was arrested and charged with domestic abuse assault. It was alleged he spit at and struck the mother in the face. A no-contact order was entered, and the mother moved into a shelter for those escaping domestic violence. The parents' separation was short-lived. Each was charged with violating the no-contact order before mid-September, when the mother sent a letter to the court asking that both the no-contact order and the domestic abuse assault charge be dismissed.

         Meanwhile, the father was arrested and charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) on ...


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