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Termination of parental rights affirmed

Outagamie County DHHS v. R.P., 2019AP990 & 2019AP991, District 3, 10/1/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The circuit court properly exercised its discretion in terminating R.P.’s parental rights, and in particular didn’t err by not considering a guardianship instead of termination.

¶6     We conclude the circuit court properly exercised its discretion when it terminated R.P.’s parental rights to Amanda and Nicole. As required under Wis. Stat. § 48.426(2), the court explained that Amanda’s and Nicole’s best interests governed its decision. The court noted that it had reviewed the “volumes of materials from the original filings, from the trial, [and] the notes” the court had taken throughout the proceedings. The court further explained that it thought the children’s social histories, medical records, “statements and information that [were] presented related to the need for the TPR, [and] statements of any other appropriate service agency providers” were also relevant to consider. The court then expressly mentioned each of the six best interests factors and stated that it considered each of them in terminating R.P.’s parental rights.

¶7      Although R.P. concedes that the circuit court mentioned all of the best interest factors, she contends the court “did not elaborate as to [the] weight and consideration” it gave to each of them, as is required by Darryl T.-H. [v. Margaret H., 2000 WI 42, 234 Wis. 2d 606, 610 N.W.2d 475]. However, R.P.’s reliance on Darryl T.-H. is misplaced. In that case, our supreme court determined the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion because it failed to apply the proper legal standard. Darryl T.-H., 234 Wis. 2d 606, ¶36. The children’s best interests did not guide the circuit court’s decision, and it considered only one of the best interests factors in deciding to dismiss the TPR petition. Id. The supreme court determined that remanding the case back to the circuit court was appropriate because the circuit court’s findings and conclusions were “inadequate” and “sparse.” Id., ¶38.

¶8     Darryl T.-H. is inapposite because the circuit court’s decision here was guided by Amanda’s and Nicole’s best interests. Additionally, the court’s findings and conclusions are far from the “sparse” findings and conclusions made in Darryl T.-H. The record demonstrates that the court specifically considered and adequately weighed each of the best interests factors in reaching its decision and appropriately elaborated on the factors it found most relevant in determining the best interests of the children.

As to the claim the circuit court failed to consider a guardianship by the children’s placement providers, R.P. provided no evidence at the dispositional hearing to support her assertion that guardianship was in the children’s best interests. (¶15). “To the contrary, when we search the record for reasons to uphold the court’s decision,.. we conclude the record does not support a finding that guardianship would have been appropriate.” (¶16).

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