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Circuit court properly exercised discretion in terminating parental rights

State v. V.S., 2021AP136, District 1, 4/6/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The record shows the circuit court considered all of the § 48.426(3) factors relevant to determining the best interests of the child and properly applied them to the facts in deciding whether to terminate V.S.’s parental rights to D.D.S.

¶22     V.S. argues on appeal that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion during the dispositional phase and improperly weighed the factors…. He points to the testimony given by his therapist and his mother and argues that their testimony shows that the factors enumerated in Wis. Stat. § 48.426(3) weigh in favor of denying the petition to terminate his parental rights to D.D.S. This court disagrees. The circuit court correctly listed each factor enumerated in Wis. Stat. § 48.426(3), and provided a reasoned explanation supporting its decision to terminate V.S.’s parental rights. See David S. v. Laura S., 179 Wis. 2d 114, 150, 507 N.W.2d 94 (1993) (“The exercise of discretion requires a rational thought process based on examination of the facts and application of the relevant law.”).

¶23     In making his argument, V.S. contends that the circuit court failed to place the proper weight on the testimony provided by V.S.’s therapist and mother and placed undue weight on the … incident [during which V.S. showed D.D.S. a “Scared Straight” video and said D.D.S. would end up in prison if he didn’t behave]. ….

¶24     D.D.S.’s therapist, whose testimony is not even mentioned in V.S.’s briefing, but played an important role at the disposition, and D.D.S.’s case manager both testified about their recent and regular contacts with D.D.S.,whereas the testimony introduced from both V.S.’s therapist and V.S.’s mother demonstrated limited and irregular contact with D.D.S. …. It was, therefore, not an erroneous exercise of the circuit court’s discretion to consider this testimony as it did, particularly in light of the contradictory testimony from those who had regular and recent contact with D.D.S.

¶25     In addition, there is nothing in the record of the circuit court’s decision supporting that it placed undue emphasis on the “Scared Straight” incident. The circuit court does not mention this incident during its findings and weighing of the factors in Wis. Stat. § 48.426(3). Instead, the circuit court aptly summarized the testimony that was put before it and explained how that testimony applied to each factor that it was required to consider in reaching a decision whether to terminate V.S.’s parental rights to D.D.S. ….

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