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Circuit court properly entered default judgment against mom at the grounds phase of TPR proceeding

Waukesha County DH&HS v. K.R.G., 2016AP222, 4/20/16, District 2 (1-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity

The court of appeals here holds that a mom’s failure to follow court orders and failure to make court appearances were egregious enough to justify a default finding of grounds for terminating her parental rights even though she asserted a “desire” and “determination” to participate in the proceeding.

The court of appeals affirmed the finding of default:

¶19 We conclude that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion under WIS. STAT. § 805.03 in finding K.R.G. in default as a sanction for failing to abide by court orders. The circuit court found that “[K.R.G.’s] conduct of failing to appear at consecutive hearings and failing to keep in contact with counsel is in violation of the Court’s orders and as a consequence, [K.R.G.’s] right to contest the grounds phase of this termination proceeding is defaulted.” The court found K.R.G.’s behavior to be “egregious,” in that her repeated nonappearances rose to the level “beyond carelessness or inattentiveness.” The court did not default the hearing; the court defaulted K.R.G.’s right to contest the findings of the hearing given her failure to appear. The County still had to prove that “grounds” existed to terminate K.R.G.’s parental rights. Finality is critical for all parties; K.R.G.’s repeated failures to abide by court orders without good cause operated to the detriment of P.K.K.G.

¶20 The circuit court properly exercised its discretion in granting default as well as denying K.R.G.’s motion to vacate the default finding, as K.R.G. never offered a reasonable justification for her nonappearances.

 

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