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Consent to voluntary TPR was valid

C.W. v. M.M., 2021AP330 & 2021AP331, District 3, 7/21/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

M.M.’s consent to voluntary termination of parental rights was valid and can’t be withdrawn.

C.W. filed a TPR petition alleging various grounds. The circuit court granted summary judgment on abandonment grounds and found M.M. unfit as a parent. At the disposition hearing, M.M. decided, after consultation with counsel, to consent to voluntary termination. This had the effect of removing the unfitness finding, and so would avoid the “possibility”—as she put it during the colloquy regarding her decision—that the unfitness finding could be used against her regarding two other children still in her home and not subject to this proceeding. (¶¶2-5, 12).

She later claimed her consent wasn’t knowing and voluntary because her lawyers misled her about the impact of the unfitness finding by failing to explain to her that there would hav to be a CHIPS finding against her regarding the other children before the unfitness finding in this case would matter. (¶¶4, 13). At a post disposition hearing, however, her lawyers testified they did explain that to her, and the circuit court found this testimony credible. (¶¶14-15). All these facts defeat her claim:

¶16     M.M.’s entire appeal essentially rests upon her professed premise that her testimony at the disposition and postdisposition hearings “suggest that M.M. believed that it was inevitable that [the twins] would be removed from her care should she continue with an involuntary termination.” Her appeal ultimately fails because this premise is faulty. The circuit court properly found, consistent with precisely what M.M. stated at both hearings, that she did not believe removal of the twins was “inevitable” but that she correctly believed that removal would be a “possibility” if she continued challenging the termination petition and her parental rights ended up being terminated involuntarily. Furthermore, it is undisputed that M.M. also testified at the disposition hearing that she understood that if she continued to challenge the termination of her parental rights at the disposition hearing, she might prevail, in which case her rights to M.S. and M.G. would not have been terminated and her rights to her twins also would not be impacted. The circuit court correctly determined that M.M.’s consent to the termination of her parental rights in this case was voluntary and informed.

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