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Court of appeals affirms TPR of dad who moved out of Wisconsin

State v. J.L.C., 2017AP197, 5/2/17, District 1 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

J.L.C. argued that the circuit court erroneously terminated his parental rights to his son, K.C., because J.L.C. moved to Arizona, not because J.L.C. failed to provide a safe environment.  The court of appeals saw things differently. Applying §48.426(3)’s “best interests of the child” factors, the court of appeals held:

¶13 The circuit court noted that K.C. had been with his foster family his entire life and that the likelihood of adoption was high. The court acknowledged that K.C. was in good health, was a happy, active child, and was well-bonded with his foster family. The court discussed K.C.’s relationship with his foster family in depth, noting that K.C. thought of his foster parents as his actual parents and recognized his foster sisters as his actual sisters. The court stated that removing K.C. from his foster home would be deeply traumatic for the child. The court recognized that K.C.’s contact with J.L.C. had been limited since J.L.C. moved to Arizona and that K.C. did not have a substantial bond with any biological family member. The court did not feel that severing K.C.’s ties with his biological family would be harmful to K.C. As such, the circuit court properly considered all of the factors when determining that termination of J.L.C.’s parental rights was in K.C.’s best interest.

J.L.C.’s argument that the circuit court should have placed K.C. with his paternal grandmother fared no better:

¶14 J.L.C. argues that the circuit court failed to adequately consider placing K.C. with the child’s paternal grandmother. The circuit court discussed the possibility of placing K.C. with his paternal grandmother and stated that the grandmother did not have substantial contact with K.C. and failed to visit the child regularly. While the court considered that possibility “very deeply,” it also noted that K.C.’s paternal grandmother was seventy-three years old and would be responsible for the child at least for the following sixteen years. The court called the possibility of K.C.’s paternal grandmother caring for a teenager in her eighties an “unrealistic expectation.” The court also discussed the trauma K.C. would endure if he were to be removed from his foster family’s care and placed with a biological relative he was unfamiliar with. Here, the record demonstrates that the circuit court gave thoughtful consideration to the possibility of placing K.C. with his paternal grandmother, but did not feel that such a placement was in the child’s best interest. Accordingly, we conclude that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion.



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