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COA rejects challenges to dispositional order in TPR case under well-settled standard of review

Chippewa County Department of Human Services v. T.M.J., 2023AP463 & 2023AP464, 10/24/23, District III (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

In another fact-dependent decision, COA affirms the circuit court’s order terminating parental rights with respect to 2 children.

After a bench trial, the circuit court found “Tracy” unfit under the “Continuing CHIPS” standard. (¶3). At a dispositional hearing, it then considered all six required factors and terminated her parental rights with respect to her two sons (“Derek” and “Drew”). (¶7).

On appeal, Tracy “contends that the court failed to sufficiently consider, as required by statute, whether Derek and Drew have a substantial relationship with their siblings and whether terminating Tracy’s parental rights would be harmful to Derek’s and Drew’s relationships with their siblings.” (¶9). Tracy focuses her challenge on § 48.426(3)(c) and therefore concedes the lack of any challenge to the court’s consideration of the other five factors. (¶12).

However, COA flatly disagrees and holds that the “record belies Tracy’s argument.” (¶13). And, even though the court failed to “specifically mention Derek’s and Drew’s relationships with their siblings and that Derek’s and Drew’s relationships with their siblings were severed by the termination of her parental rights[,]” the discretionary standard of review allows the reviewing court to use inference and implication to fill in any gaps in the court’s oral ruling. (¶14).

Accordingly, her challenges to the circuit court’s exercise of discretion are unavailing. (¶18).

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