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Court of appeals upholds TPR disposition as in children’s best interest

State v. J.J., 2016AP194 & 2016AP195, 4/12/2016, District 1 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

J.J., the father, appeals the termination of his rights to his two children, J.J. and A.J., challenging not the finding of unfitness but only the court’s determination that termination was in the best interest of each child.

Per the opinion (the briefs being confidential), the father has neither cared for nor paid child support for either of his young children for well over a year, and has never been involved with the second child. (¶¶3-12). J.J. does not argue that the circuit court failed to properly consider the six statutory factors, or reached the wrong conclusion as to any of them. (¶26). Instead, he argues that the “overall circumstances” don’t support termination, that he loves his children and that he wants to parent them. (¶26). The court rejects the argument:

The first problem with J. J.’s argument is that it completely misperceives the law of best interest of the child. Best interest is analyzed from the child’s perspective, not from the father’s perspective. See Julie A.B., 255 Wis. 2d 170, ¶38. The second problem with his argument is that a child’s best interest requires actual parenting. Saying you want a relationship with your child is not the same as demonstrating a proven track record of caring for, nurturing, and supporting your child.

More specifically, J. J. argues that the “overall circumstances of this case do not support termination.” J. J. points to three pieces of evidence in the record that he contends show that the trial court erred in terminating his parental rights. First, he testified that he loves his children and wants to parent them. Even if that is true, feeling and desire alone do not actually demonstrate effective parenting of children. The children’s best interest requires proof. Second, he claims he parented his previous girlfriend’s children and would do so with his son and daughter. He offers no corroboration for this testimony and does not address his history of failure to parent his own son and daughter in this case. And third, he claims he has had a long history of employment, which would enable him to provide financially for his son and daughter. But his claimed ability to support his children never materialized into any child support for them, and he offers no evidence, or even an explanation, as to how it will be different in the future. Accordingly, his evidence opposing termination amounts to his mere speculation about what he might do in the future.


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