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TPR Grounds: Abandonment

Heather B. v. Jennifer B., 2011 WI App 26; for Jennifer B.: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate; case activity

Where abandonment as a ground for termination, § 48.415(1)(a)2., is triggered by removal from the home under a CHIPS order, the 3-month period of abandonment must fall completely within the duration of the CHIPS placement order. Here, because the alleged abandonment period began two weeks before the end of the CHIPS placement order, abandonment couldn’t support termination.

¶15      First, a contrary reading would render the requirement that notice be contained in a CHIPS order removing the child from the parent’s home meaningless. …

¶16      Second, we observe that there are five abandonment grounds, but only WIS. STAT. § 48.415(1)(a)2. requires proof of a placement outside the home. …

¶17      A third reason is closely related to the first two.  Under the petitioner’s reading, notice in a CHIPS order would be deemed sufficient to give notice not only years later, but also without regard to intervening events.  We do not believe that a reasonable person would think that the notice he or she received in the course of a CHIPS proceeding retained its force after the CHIPS proceeding was resolved and without regard to how the CHIPS proceeding was resolved.

¶18      Accordingly, we conclude that the only reasonable reading of WIS. STAT. § 48.415(1)(a)2. is that the three-month abandonment provision requires that the three-month abandonment period fall within the duration of the CHIPS-based placement of the child outside the parent’s home.

¶19      Here, the abandonment period did not fully fall within the CHIPS-based placement period.  Rather, about ten weeks of the abandonment period ran after the CHIPS-based placement ended.  Thus, WIS. STAT. § 48.415(1)(a)2. does not provide grounds for termination.

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