Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the final order of the juvenile court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her three children, entered twenty months after the evidentiary hearing on the issue, holding that the juvenile court erred in denying Mother’s motion to reopen the record filed more than nineteenth months after the original hearing. Approximately six months after the evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court granted the State’s motion to reopen the record and present additional evidence in support of its petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Thirteen months later, Mother moved to reopen the evidence seeking to show that she had made reasonable efforts toward reunification. The juvenile court denied Mother’s motion and entered a written order terminating Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed the termination order and remanded with instructions to grant Mother’s motion to reopen the record, holding that the juvenile court erred in failing to allow Mother to present additional contemporary evidence. View "In the Interest of L.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the juvenile court permitting Mother to participate from prison by telephone in a hearing to terminate parental rights, but only to give testimony, holding that an incarcerated parent is entitled to participate from a prison or jail facility during the entire hearing for termination of parental rights. Following the hearing, the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights to her five children. At issue on appeal was whether the limitations imposed by the juvenile court on Mother’s participation in the hearing by telephone complied with due process. The Supreme Court rejected a rule that limits the telephone participation of an incarcerated parent in a hearing to terminate parental rights to giving testimony and, instead, adopted the standard that juvenile courts must give incarcerated parents the opportunity to participate from the prison facility in the entire termination hearing by telephone or other similar means of communication, holding that the competing interests involved do not justify the limitations imposed on full participation. View "In re M.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a premarital agreement provision waiving an award of attorney fees related to issues of child or spousal support is categorically prohibited by Iowa Code 596.5(2), and Iowa Code 596.5(1)(g) prohibits fee-shifting bar provisions as to child-custody issues. The parties in this case executed a premarital agreement waiving the right to seek an award of attorney fees in the event of a dissolution of their marriage. During their dissolution proceeding, Wife requested an award of attorney fees arising from litigating issues of child custody, child support, and spousal support. The district court declined to award attorney fees, concluding that, in the absence of any articulated public policy of the state, it did not have authority to ignore the plain language of the parties’ premarital agreement. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the waiver provision in the premarital agreement was unenforceable as to child-related issues because it violates public policy. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals decision on its award of attorney fees for child-related issues but vacated the part of the decision regarding attorney fees for spousal support, holding that the premarital agreement was also unenforceable as to the spousal-support issues. View "Erpelding v. Erpelding" on Justia Law

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At issue was Mother’s and Father’s parental responsibility for postsecondary education for their daughter following the dissolution of their marriage. On Mother’s motion, the district court entered an order requiring the parents to each pay $6629 toward their daughter’s education for the 2016-2017 school year. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the presumptive cost of attending an in-state institution under section 598.21F(2)(a) is the cost of attendance as published by the in-state public institution; (2) a child’s scholarship funds, work earnings, and savings may be considered as part of a child’s expected contribution to her education, but available student loans should not be considered as part of a child’s expected contribution; and (3) in this case, Mother and Father must each contribute $6362 toward their daughter’s postsecondary education. View "Larsen v. Larsen" on Justia Law

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In this private action filed by Mother under Iowa Code chapter 600A, the Supreme Court concluded that Father’s parental rights to his children should not be terminated. Mother filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of Father, alleging abandonment, failure to support, and a crime against a child. The district court concluded that Mother proved by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination existed and that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Mother met the threshold requirement for private termination by clear and convincing evidence; but (2) Mother did not show by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the children will be advanced by termination of Father’s parental rights. View "In re Q.G." on Justia Law

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A premarital agreement waiver of attorney fees related to child or spousal support adversely affects the right to such support and, therefore, is unenforceable under Iowa Code 596.5(2). Here, Wife and Husband executed a premarital agreement waiving the right to seek an award of attorney fees in the event of a dissolution of their marriage. During the parties’ dissolution proceeding, Wife requested an award of attorney fees arising from litigating issues of child custody, child support, and spousal support. The district court denied the request for attorney fees, concluding that the waiver provision in the premarital agreement was enforceable. The court of appeals reversed with regard to the attorney fees issue, ruling that the waiver provision violated public policy and was unenforceable to the extent that the attorney fees arise from litigation of child-related issues. The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the court of appeals’ decision pertaining to attorney fees and affirmed the decision on all other issues, holding that the district court erred in relying on the attorney-fee-waiver provision in the parties’ premarital agreement to deny Wife’s request for support-related attorney fees. View "Erpelding v. Erpelding" on Justia Law

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The juvenile court did not err in terminating Mother’s parental rights after Mother’s three-month-old daughter was sexually abused by Father, with whom Mother had left the child knowing he was intoxicated. The juvenile court found that the State had proven the grounds for termination of Mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the child’s best interests. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment, holding that, where Mother remained incapable of raising the child safely with no indication that her parenting abilities would sufficiently improve in the foreseeable future despite the extensive services provided by social workers with the Iowa Department of Human Services, the juvenile court properly terminated Mother’s parental rights. View "In re A.S." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court did not err in terminating Mother’s parental rights after Mother’s three-month-old daughter was sexually abused by Father, with whom Mother had left the child knowing he was intoxicated. The juvenile court found that the State had proven the grounds for termination of Mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the child’s best interests. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment, holding that, where Mother remained incapable of raising the child safely with no indication that her parenting abilities would sufficiently improve in the foreseeable future despite the extensive services provided by social workers with the Iowa Department of Human Services, the juvenile court properly terminated Mother’s parental rights. View "In re A.S." on Justia Law

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Iowa may constitutionally deny an inheritance tax exemption for bequests to stepchildren when the marriage between parent and stepparent was dissolved before the stepparent’s death, while granting an exemption when the marriage was not dissolved. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the administrative ruling of the Iowa Department of Revenue denying an estate’s request for a tax refund. An administrative law judge rejected the decedent’s stepchildren’s protest challenging the denial of the tax refund on the ground that Iowa Code 450.1(1)(e)’s classification of stepchildren violated their equal protection rights under Iowa Const. art. I, 6. The district court affirmed the Department’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 450.1(1)(e) does not violate article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution because a rational basis exists for the legislature to exclude stepchildren postdivorce from the inheritance tax exemption for surviving spouses lineal descendants, lineal ascendants, and other stepchildren. View "Tyler v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court adjudicating Child as one in need of assistance. The juvenile court specifically found that Father was imminently likely to abuse or neglect Child and that Child was immediately likely to suffer harmful effects due to Father’s failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising Child. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Father’s physical abuse against other family members did not establish that Child was at risk of imminent harm. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment, holding that, given Father’s history of domestic violence, combined with his lack of participation throughout this process, the juvenile court properly adjudicated Child a child in need of assistance based on the harmful effects Child was imminently likely to suffer due to Father’s domestic violence. View "In re L.H." on Justia Law