Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the juvenile court's permanency order transferring sole legal custody of the child in this case to Father, holding that there was convincing evidence to show that the child could safely be transitioned to Mother's care at the time of the permanency hearing.The State initiated a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding due to the parents' inability to coparent. At the time, Mother was the primary custodial parent. Mother participated in services to reunify with the child and showed progress, but the juvenile court determined it was not safe to return the child to Mother's home and entered a permanency order transferring sole legal custody of the child to Father. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was convincing evidence to show the child could safely be transitioned to Mother's care at the time of the permanency hearing. View "In re D.M." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court striking down sections 99 and 100 of House File 766, which added funding conditions prohibiting abortion providers from participating in two federally funded educational grant programs directed at reducing teenage pregnancy and promoting abstinence, holding that any conditions premised on providing abortions cannot be considered unconstitutional.Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) was a former grantee of both grants and, upon the passage of sections 99 and 100, became ineligible to receive funding. PPH brought a declaratory judgment action arguing that the Act violated its rights to equal protection, due process, free speech, and free association under the Iowa Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment for PPH and enjoined enforcement of the legislative enactments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the conditions were rationally related to the classification selected by the general assembly; and (2) where abortion providers have no constitutional right to perform abortions, the unconstitutional conditions doctrine did not prohibit the State form barring abortion providers from receiving the funding at issue. View "Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Inc. v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the adjudication of the juvenile court adjudicating Mother's fourth child, A.W., a child in need of assistance (CINA), holding that the State failed to offer clear and convincing evidence that A.W. was at imminent risk of harm from Mother's failure to "exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising" A.W., as required to support adjudication under Iowa Code 232.2(6)(c)(2).A.W. was born in April 2020. On April 2, 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the termination of Mother's parental rights to her three older children. The juvenile court adjudicated A.W. as a CINA based on two grounds - Iowa Code 232.2(6)(n) and section 232.2(6)(c)(2). The court of appeals reversed the adjudication based on section 232.2(6)(n) but affirmed on section 232.2(6)(c)(2) grounds. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that A.W. should not have been adjudicated CINA, and therefore, the juvenile court erred. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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