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Terminating a Parent's Parental Rights in Iowa

Updated on
January 11, 2021
Article written by
Eugene Nassif

In this article, we discuss the process and implications that go along with terminating a parent’s parental rights in Iowa. We cover questions including:

  • Reasons You Can Get Parental Rights Terminated in Iowa
  • How Can I File to Terminate Parental Rights in Iowa
  • Grounds for Terminating Co-parent’s Rights in Iowa
  • Implications When Terminating Parental Rights

Parents often worry whether their co-parent is properly taking care of their child. Parents sometimes make decisions that can have negative impacts on your children. Upon learning that your co-parent made some bad decision, you might want to know if anything can be done to terminate that parent’s parental rights in an effort to protect your child. The following is an analysis of how you might be able to terminate or limit a co-parent's parental rights.  

 

Reasons You Can Get Parental Rights Terminated in Iowa

The first way a parent’s rights could be terminated is after the Iowa Department of Human Services or police get involved due to neglect or abuse of the child after a parent has been given the opportunity to correct the issues but has failed to do so. Should the parent fail to correct their parenting issues, the state would file a petition with the Iowa court requesting the termination of that parent’s rights. This process doesn’t require the involvement of the co-parent.  

There are times, however, where a co-parent may want to terminate the parent’s rights without the Iowa DHS or police getting involved. A co-parent may desire to terminate one parent’s rights in order to allow the child to be adopted by a step parent or in order to prevent the child from experiencing one parent’s bad behavior. Terminating another parent’s rights in these instances is referred to as private termination.  

 

How Can I File to Terminate Parental Rights in Iowa 

In order to terminate parental rights, the parent/guardian (referred to as the “petitioner”) must file a petition in juvenile court requesting the court to terminate the other parent’s rights. The parent whose rights could be terminated (referred to as the “respondent”) will need to be served with notice of the court action. They are able to hire an attorney to represent them and resist the action. The Petitioner may have to cover the cost of that attorney as well as the cost of a guardian ad litem to represent the child if the Court appoints a guardian ad litem. Should the Respondent not agree to the termination, there will be a trial where the Petitioner will have to prove grounds to terminate parental rights.  

 

Grounds for Terminating Co-parent’s Rights in Iowa

There are a number of grounds for terminating a co-parent's rights. They include: 

  • The parent failing to provide financial support without good cause after they have been ordered to do so; 
  • The parent will be imprisoned for five or more years; 
  • The parent has abandoned the child; 
  • The parent has been determined to be a chronic substance abuser, has committed domestic assault and has abducted or improperly retained the child; 
  • The parent has been imprisoned for a crime against the child or their sibling; 
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony sex offense against a minor, the parent is divorced from or was never married to the minor’s other parent, and the parent is serving a minimum of five years for the offense.  

 

The most often used ground for attempting to terminate a parent’s right is abandonment of the child. To prove this is complicated. Iowa law provides a list of factors the court can consider when determining whether a parent has abandoned their child. Most of the time, if the parent has made ANY attempt to so much as contact or show commitment to the child, the Court will not terminate the parent’s rights.  

 

Implications when Terminating Parental Rights

The Petitioner should be aware of the implications associate with terminating a parent’s rights. Should the parent’s rights be terminated, they will no longer be obligated to financially support the child. Any and all child support orders will end upon termination. Additionally, the child will no longer be able to automatically inherit anything from that parent upon that parent’s death.  

Courts tend not to terminate parental rights when at all possible. The Petitioner will have to make a strong argument to terminate, mainly due to the implications of termination. Additionally, where the child receives public assistance, the State of Iowa has an interest in maintaining the parental rights of both parents so that the State will not have to step in and provide financial assistance to the child.  

 


Terminating a Parent's Parental Rights in Iowa
Author

Eugene Nassif

Eugene Nassif is an associate attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. His primary focus is in business and civil litigation matters.

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