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TPR court properly considered whether children had substantial relationship with mother and her family

State v. L.J., 2017AP2380, 2017AP2381, & 2017AP2382, District 1, 2/13/18 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

L.J. argues the circuit court terminated her parental rights to her children without properly considering whether her children had a substantial relationship with her or her family members. The court of appeals disagrees.

L.J. claims the circuit court erroneously applied the “substantial parental relationship” standard under § 48.415(6), which requires the court at the fact-finding hearing to consider a parent’s daily involvement with his or her children, when under § 48.426(3)(c) it was required to consider whether the children had “substantial relationships” with the parent or other family members and whether it would be harmful to the child to sever these relationship. (¶7).

While the circuit court did use the phrase “substantial parental relationship,” it discussed all aspects of L.J.’s relationship with her children, not just her daily involvement with them, and considered the impact of severing their relationship. (¶9). The circuit court also considered the fact that two of L.J.’s relatives expressed interest in being “placement resources,” but they did so late in the process and there was no evidence of a familial bond between them and the children. (¶10). Thus, the circuit court properly considered all the relevant factors at disposition.

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