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COA affirms partial summary judgment that mom abandoned her son

Juneau County DHS v. C.C., 2020AP438, 6/4/20, District 4, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

Courts don’t usually award summary judgment in TPR cases, especially not at the grounds phase where the question is whether the parent abandoned the child. The issue is generally too fact intensive. But here the circuit court found no genuine issue of fact regarding abandonment, and the court of appeals affirmed.

C.C. conceded that the County had made a prima facie case for abandonment. So the only real issue was whether she had “good cause” for failing to visit or communicate wither her son during the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th periods of abandonment.

The court of appeals focused on just the last 3 months of the 4th period of abandonment. It first held that C.C. provided no evidence to support her averment that she believed her son too young to benefit from communication with her. Opinion, ¶20.

The court of appeals also dismissed C.C.’s assertion that she could not afford phone service, paper, envelopes or stamps while in jail because the jail would provide her with paper, postage, and an envelope once per week.  Moreover, she presented no evidence that a no-contact order entered upon her arrest prevented her from sending letters.  Plus C.C. did send one letter to a social worker, which proved that she could do it. Opinion, ¶21, ¶24.

In sum, C.C. failed to show a genuine issues of fact as to the absence of good cause for not communicating wither her son and his foster parents. Thus, the county was entitled to summary judgment on C.C.’s unfitness as a parent.

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