Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Father to his child and denying the State's petition to terminate Mother's parental rights and instead entering a permanency order appointing Grandmother of one of the boys as the guardian for both, holding that the juvenile court should have terminated Mother's parental rights.Father appealed the termination of his rights, but his notice of appeal was untimely filed. Mother appealed the permanency order, asking the Court to direct the State to continue reunification efforts. The State also appealed, challenging the juvenile court's disposition as to Mother. The Supreme Court reversed as to Mother and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) as to Mother, guardianship was not a proper permanency plan, and the juvenile court erred in denying termination; and (2) because Father's late filing of an appeal was beyond his control, this Court addresses his appeal, and the juvenile court did not err in terminating Father's parental rights. View "In re W.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the termination of parental rights as to Mother but not as to Father, holding that the juvenile court erred in finding each required element for a termination of Mother's custody under Iowa Code Ann. 232.116(1)(f) and (h).At issue was the termination of the parental rights of Mother to her three children and the termination of the parental rights of Father of one of the children. Both parties appealed, but Father filed his petition two days late. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) this Court recognizes delayed appeals in termination of parental rights cases under certain limited circumstances; (2) the State did not meet its burden of proving that the children could not be returned to Mother's custody at the time of the adjudication; and (3) the juvenile court properly terminated Father's parental rights as to his child. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the juvenile court terminating Father's parental rights to his two-year-old daughter, holding that the phrase "the proceeding" in Iowa Code 232.114(3) includes the appeal from the order terminating parental rights.In a 2013 amendment to section 232.114(3), the statue applicable to terminations, the legislature provided that when the county attorney and the State disagree, the county attorney may continue to appear "in the proceeding" and present his or her position regarding the appropriate action to be taken. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), the attorney general, and Father all favored restoring Father's parental rights and placing the child in his custody under supervision. The Polk County Attorney and the child's foster parents and guardian ad litem all favored termination. At issue was whether the county attorney may be heard in this appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) the county attorney was authorized to participate in this appeal; and (2) the grounds for termination were not proven by clear and convincing evidence in this case. View "In re C.Z." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the juvenile court terminating Mother's parental rights to her two children, holding that the juvenile court appropriately handled this case in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.The juvenile court found clear and convincing evidence that the children could not be returned to Mother and that termination was appropriate under Iowa Code 232.116(1)(f) and (h). The court of appeals affirmed, but a dissenting judge argued that the pandemic had thwarted Mother's efforts to demonstrate that her children could safely be returned to her. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the best interests of the children supported termination of Mother's parental rights; and (2) COVID-19 did not adversely affect Mother's ability to reunify. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court dismissing this child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding in which the child victim of sexual abuse had been returned to the home with the perpetrator and in which the child's mother refused to believe any sexual abuse occurred, holding that dismissal was improper.When a seven-year-old girl was sexually abused by her stepfather, the State initiated a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding, and the juvenile court removed the girl from the home. After the stepfather had been prohibited from living there, the child was allowed to return to the home. The girl's mother, however, refused to accept the sexual abuse finding against her husband. The juvenile court eventually permitted the stepfather to run to the home and dismissed the child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the purposes of the child-in-need-of-assistance order were not accomplished, and the continuation of the child's supervision, care, or treatment through continued proceedings was warranted. View "In re D.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the juvenile court's dismissal of the State's petition to adjudicate a child, N.C., in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code 232.2(6)(b), (d), and (p), but revering the dismissal on the ground set forth in (d), holding that the State satisfied its burden of proof to adjudicate N.C. a child in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code 232.2(6)(d).Section 232.2(6)(d) defines a child in need of assistance as a child who "has been, or is imminently likely to be, sexually abused by the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides." The Supreme Court held that N.C.'s report of sexual abuse in this case was credible and that the State satisfied its burden of proof. View "In re N.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the order of the juvenile court terminating Father's parental rights, holding that the State proved the grounds for termination of Father's parental rights and that termination was in the child's best interests.Father had a history of involvement with the Iowa Department of Human Services due to his issues with domestic violence, substance abuse, cognitive functioning, and mental health, leading to the termination of his parental rights to ten other children. In this case, Father's issues led to the removal of another child upon birth. When the child developed serious health issues, Father showed no interest in the child's medical care and failed to gain understanding of how to care for the child's medical needs. Ultimately, the juvenile court terminated Father's parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Father remained incapable of safely caring for the child, and there was no indication that his parenting abilities would adequately improve in the foreseeable future. View "In re J.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the juvenile court terminating Father's parental rights to his child, holding that Father was not unfairly penalized for working too hard.After the child was removed from Mother's custody and was adjudicated in need of assistance Father received services. Father worked two full-time jobs on weekdays from 6 a.m. until midnight and lacked a driver's license or the ability to get a driver's license. The juvenile court terminated Father's parental rights to the child under Iowa Code 232.116(1)(h). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State proved the child had been removed from the physical custody of the child's parents and that the child could not be placed in Father's custody at the time of the termination hearing; and (2) termination was in the child's best interests. View "In re Z.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court concluding that Husband, who had a recent income history less than that of Wife, was not entitled to alimony under the facts and circumstances developed at trial, holding that Husband was not entitled to alimony.In determining that the record did not support alimony for Husband, the district court held that traditional alimony would not be appropriate based upon the length of the marriage and the earning capacity of both parties. The district court further declared that there was no basis for reimbursement or rehabilitative alimony. The court of appeals awarded Husband three years of alimony. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, based on a totality of all the relevant factors, the district court properly declined to award Husband alimony in this case. View "In re the Marriage of Mann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the juvenile court that termination of Father's parental rights was not in the child's best interest, holding that Iowa Code chapter 600A's best interest factors weigh in favor of terminating Father's parental rights.Mother petitioned for the termination of Father's parental rights due to abandonment under section 600A.8(3)(b). The juvenile court found that Father statutorily abandoned the child but denied Mother's petition based on its determination that termination was not in the child's best interest. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision and reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that the juvenile court erred in concluding that termination of Father's parental rights was not proper under chapter 600A. View "In re Interest of B.H.A." on Justia Law