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COA rejects father’s challenge to TPR disposition

State v. K.P., 2023AP2404-06, 3/19/24, District 1 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

K.P. (“Kevin”) challenged the circuit court’s order terminating his parental rights on two grounds: (1) that his own testimony demostrated he had a substantial relationship with his three children and (2) because there was a lack of evidence concerning the childrens’ wishes. The court of appeals concludes that is is “clear” the circuit court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in determining that terminating Kevin’s parental rights to his children was in their best interests.

As is usually the case in any TPR case, the backstory here is a sad one. Kevin’s children were removed from his care when it was discovered that two of his children suffered broken bones in their legs caused by their mother. Kevin was charged with child neglect of the third and oldest child. Kevin entered a no contest plea to grounds, but contested disposition. After a two-day disposition hearing, the circuit court appears to have considered all of the statutory factors, and found that none of the children had a substantial relationship with Kevin, that the oldest child wanted to be adopted, and that the two other children were too young to express their wishes.

On appeal, Kevin argues that “evidence supports the existence of asubstantial relationship between himself and his children.” Op., ¶13. While the court summarizes the evidence relied upon by Kevin, including his “great progress towards reunification” with his children, the court thereafter summarizes the evidence  against Kevin and concludes the cirucit court’s weighing of the evidence was within the court’s discretion. Op., ¶17.

With regard to the wishes of the children, the court summarily dismissed Kevin’s complaints, noting that evidence was presented that the oldest child wanted to stay with his foster parents because he “felt safe with them.” Op., ¶19.

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