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Best interests of the child factors adequately considered; TPR affirmed

Wood County v. P.M.P., 2022AP1815, 2/23/23, District 4, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

In this appeal, P.M.P.’s sole challenge was to the circuit court’s application of the “best interest of the child” factors in §48.426(3)(a)-(f). P.M.P. conceded that the circuit court adequately considered the “substantial relationship” factor, but its analysis of the other facts was too terse. The decision required reversal under s Minguey v. Brookens, 100 Wis. 2d 681, 303 N.W.2d 581 (1981) and State v. Margaret H., 2000 WI 42, ¶27, 234 Wis. 2d 606, 610 N.W.2d 475. The court of appeals disagreed and affirmed.

The court of appeals held that Miniguey doesn’t apply to this case at all. There the circuit court’s exercise of discretion was inadequate because it failed to make a finding that the termination of the child’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Opinion, ¶18.

Margaret H. doesn’t apply either. In that case, SCOW reversed because the circuit court considered only one “best interest factor” to the exclusion of all the others. Opinion, ¶19.  According to the court of appeals, P.M.P.’s case was different. Here the circuit court “could have said more,” but at least it “alluded to” all 6 factors. Opinion, ¶20.

P.M.P. specifically faulted the circuit court for wholly failing to consider the wishes of the child. Indeed, the circuit court said only: “[t]he wishes of the child are not material to this Court.” The court of appeals construed this statement as meaning that due to the child’s age (4), her wishes wouldn’t be the driving force, and that was just fine. It also said that the only evidence of the child’s wishes in the record would have supported termination. The child had expressed little interest in continuing visits with her mom. Opinion, ¶¶22-23.

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