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Iowa appeals court sides with dad in adoption dispute
An adoption battle is pitting a biological father who is a college student with a criminal history against a couple who are “excellent parents” who wish to adopt a 3½-year-old boy named Daniel.
The Iowa Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday that the parental rights of the biological father, a Davenport man known only as Johnny, should not be terminated because he attempted to find his son despite the efforts of the biological mother, Ashley, against him. The potential adoptive parents are referred to as Jeff and Jenny, who live in Muscatine.
“Johnny’s attempts to get information from Ashley were met with lies about the baby’s whereabouts and Ashley’s plans for the child,” the court wrote. “Unfortunately, at the same time the mother was lying to Johnny, she was withholding information from Jeff and Jenny about the person she obviously believed to be her son’s father.”
Jennifer Olsen, attorney for Johnny, said he is “obviously pleased” with the ruling and plans to pursue reunification with his child. “My client has much interest in being a father,” she said. However, she noted, “We understand that this is a delicate situation. He understands there is a relationship to be built.”
The attorney for Daniel’s legal guardians could not be reached for comment.
According to court documents:
Daniel was born in October 2004 to Ashley in a Davenport hospital. Before she gave birth, she told Jeff and Jenny that she wanted them to adopt the baby. Jenny had worked as the manager of the nursery at Ashley’s high school and had been told by other mothers that Ashley wanted to give up her child for adoption. They met when Ashley was four months pregnant.
Jenny was there when Daniel was born. She and Jeff brought the baby home with them, and he was given their last name. Ashley told them she was not sure who the father of the baby was but she believed it might be a man named Johnny, who lives in Davenport.
Jeff and Jenny did not establish a legal relationship between themselves and the child.
However, court documents say, Ashley knew much more about Johnny. She called him to inform him the baby was about to be born, and he attempted to visit him at the hospital twice.
Two weeks after Daniel was born, Ashley began to have second thoughts. She went and got the baby from Jeff and Jenny, and then placed him in Johnny’s care for about six weeks. She then demanded Johnny return Daniel to her and gave him back to Jeff and Jenny without Johnny’s knowledge.
When Johnny asked about Daniel, Ashley told him, “He is somewhere better.”
Jeff and Jenny applied to become the temporary guardians. Ashley signed an affidavit saying she did not know who the father was or his whereabouts. Notice of guardianship was published in the Muscatine Journal — as the case was filed in Muscatine County. It used Jeff and Jenny’s last name as Daniel’s last name. Also, Johnny was living in Davenport, where the local paper is the Quad-City Times.
In November 2006, Jeff and Jenny filed a request to terminate the parental rights of Ashley and any biological father.
Meanwhile, Johnny was looking for Daniel.
Ultimately, he learned of the guardianship action through Iowa Courts Online, with the help of his probation officer. He found a phone number of Jeff and Jenny and called them to request a visit with Daniel. Jenny told him to contact their attorney.
He appeared at the termination hearing. The district court ruled that while Ashley’s rights were to be terminated, Johnny’s were not.
Ann McGlynn can be contacted at (563) 383-2336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.