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County-imposed conditions for reinstating visits in CHIPS proceedings didn’t violate due process

Monroe County DHS v. T.M., 2017AP875 & 2017AP876, District 4, 8/17/17 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

T.M.’s parental rights were terminated on abandonment grounds under § 48.415(1). (¶¶2-10). She argues this violated her substantive due process rights under Kenosha Cty. DHS v. Jodie W., 2006 WI 93, 293 Wis. 2d 530, 716 N.W.2d 845, because the period of alleged abandonment included time during which the County suspended her visitation rights based on her failure to satisfy conditions it was impossible for her to meet. (¶14). The court of appeals disagrees.

¶15     T.M. argues that “[l]ike Jodie W., the county has put [T.M.] in an impossible situation.” Assuming, without deciding, that the holding in Jodie W. as to court-ordered conditions of return under the CHIPS ground in Wis. Stat. § 48.415(2) applies here to County-imposed conditions to reinstate visits under the abandonment ground in Wis. Stat. § 48.415(1), I reject T.M.’s analogy as unsupported by the record. The conditions of T.M.’s suspended visitation required her to submit to drug testing and a psychological assessment, to regularly contact the social worker to inquire about the children’s well-being and inform the social worker of updates in her situation, and to acknowledge the children’s birthdays, holidays, and special events. T.M. does not explain how these conditions were not tailored to the particular needs of her and her children. Nor does the record show that these conditions were impossible for T.M. to meet. Even if some of them may have been difficult for her to meet, T.M. does not explain why it was impossible, or even difficult for her, at a minimum, to communicate with her children by calling and writing ….

T.M. also argues it is unfair to count the period when visits were suspended based on County-imposed conditions because under § 48.415(1)(b) a period of court ordered suspension of visitation can’t be counted. The court finds this argument undeveloped, and also says T.M. could have, but didn’t, seek judicial review of the County’s suspension of visitation. (¶¶16-17). The court also rejects as undeveloped T.M.’s argument that it was unfair to count the period of suspended visitation in her case because, unlike continuing CHIPS grounds, the County didn’t have to show it made reasonable efforts to assist T.M. in meeting its conditions. (¶18).

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