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TPR – Withdrawal of Admission

Nicole P. v. Michael P., 2012AP780, District 3, 10/16/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

Father’s motion to withdraw admission to grounds (based on asserted lack of understanding that: termination of parental rights required an unfitness determination; sole focus of dispositional hearing would be child’s best interests, with no concern for parent’s own interests; disposition could result in permanent extinction of all his parental rights), rejected:

¶16         We conclude Michael is not entitled to withdraw his admission because Nicole met her burden of proving he knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently admitted to the abandonment ground.  First, the plea form established that Michael knew that, upon his admission, the court was going to find him unfit, a dispositional hearing would occur, and the judge at the dispositional hearing would determine whether it was in Bane’s best interest to terminate Michael’s parental rights.  Michael also knew that his parental rights “may or may not” be terminated at the dispositional hearing.  At the plea hearing, Michael testified that he understood everything in the form, that he understood the focus of the next hearing would “shift from [him] to Bane,” and that he knew the purpose of the hearing would be “to decide if it’s in Bane’s best interest that [Michael] would stay his father.”

¶17      Further, Michael’s trial counsel represented to the court at the plea hearing that he had three or four conversations with Michael about his admission and believed Michael understood the implications.  Then, at the postdisposition hearing, trial counsel testified that he discussed with Michael the concepts of unfitness, best interests of the child, and parental rights termination.  The circuit court was free to accept counsel’s testimony and did in fact rely on it when determining Michael knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered his admission.  See State v. Peppertree Resort Villas, Inc., 2002 WI App 207, ¶19, 257 Wis. 2d 421, 651 N.W.2d 345 (“When the circuit court acts as the finder of fact, it is the ultimate arbiter of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to each witness’s testimony.”).  The court was also free to reject Michael’s purported lack of understanding, finding it “self-serving” and contrary to the other evidence.  See id.

TPR admission-withdrawal procedure – Brown Cnty. DHS v. Brenda B., 2011 WI 6, 331 Wis. 2d 310, 795 N.W.2d 730; Oneida County D.S.S. v. Therese S., 2008 WI App. 159, 314 Wis. 2d 493, 762 N.W.2d 122 -, discussed, ¶¶12-13.

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