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TPR petitions were sufficiently pled, and COVID didn’t provide a defense to the parent’s failure to meet the conditions of return

State v. P.G., 2021AP1231, 2021AP1232, & 2021AP1233, District 1, 11/2/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

P.G.’s challenges the sufficiency of the TPR petitions against him and claims the COVID epidemic affected his ability to meet the conditions of return. His arguments are in vain.

First, he argues a TPR petition must met the same requirements as a criminal complaint and CHIPS petition—namely, it must contain sufficient facts or give rise to reasonable inferences to establish probable cause that the court has jurisdiction, see State v. Courtney E., 184 Wis. 2d 592, 516 N.W.2d 422 (1994)—and that the petitions filed against him didn’t meet this standard because they mostly incorporated allegations against the children’s mother. But TPR petitions need only meet the requirements of § 48.42(1)(c)2., which says the petition must set forth with specificity a statement of the facts that the petitioner alleges establish grounds for termination, and the petitions here did that. (¶¶11, 15-20).

Next, he argues that it violates due process to terminate his parental rights based on failure to meet the conditions of return because of the impact of the COVID pandemic, which interrupted his visitation from March to June 2020, then required virtual-only visitation, and then led to the loss of his job and eviction and a new temporary job, the work schedule for which kept him from completing certain return requirements. (¶12). However, the TPR petitions were filed in February 2020, before the COVID stay-at-home orders took effect, and the relevant statute, § 48.415(2)(a)3., no longer looks to whether the parent will meet the requirements for return in the next 9 months, but only at the circumstances as they existed when the petition was filed. In any event, P.G. was allowed to present testimony about the effect of the pandemic, which the fact finder considered. Thus, his due process rights weren’t violated. (¶¶21-24).

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