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Admission to TPR ground was valid

State v. S.N.N., 2016AP2102 & 2016AP2103, District 1, 12/12/17 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

S.N.N. admitted the continuing CHIPS ground that was alleged in the TPR petition regarding her two children. The court of appeals rejects her claim that her admission was not knowing and voluntary.

S.N.N. asserts she was not informed by her lawyer or the judge that there would be a lower burden of proof at the dispositional hearing or that she was giving her right to have witnesses appear on her behalf. She also argues her lawyer coerced her into entering the admission, in part by having her met her children’s foster parents, who promised  her future contact with the twins. (¶12).

But there’s no requirement under § 48.422(7) or the case law that the trial court advise a parent entering an admission about the burden of proof at disposition; it need only advise that the best interests of the child will be the paramount factor, Oneida County DSS v. Therese S., 2008 WI App 159, 16, 314 Wis. 2d 493, 762 N.W.2d 122, and the circuit court did that here. (¶15). The argument about giving up calling witnesses is undeveloped. (¶16). And S.N.N.’s claims about her lawyer’s coercive tactics were disputed by her lawyer and, to some degree, by her responses to the judge’s questioning during the admission colloquy, so that’s that. (¶¶17-22).

S.N.N. also argues her lawyer was ineffective for not objecting at the dispositional phase to the foster parents’ testimony that they intended to allow S.N.N. to visit with the children after her rights were terminated. (¶23). For the same reasons given in State v. M.P., 2016AP2104 & 2016AP2105, which involved the father of S.N.N.’s children, the court holds the circuit court may consider the foster parents’ statements of intent, and therefore counsel wasn’t deficient for failing to object. (¶¶25-34).

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