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Court of appeals upholds TPR summary judgment

J.N.W. v. J.R.P., 2017AP1390, 9/20/17, District 2 (one-judge decision, ineligible for publication); case activity

Robert, the father of Jessica, appeals the termination of is parental rights. Specifically, he argues the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether he failed to communicate with her for more than six months, and even if he did, whether he had good cause for his failure.

The court of appeals is not convinced. As to communication, Robert submits that he and his mother sent text messages, cards and packages to the girl’s mother and other relatives. The court calls these allegations conclusory, noting that Robert makes no claim that no six-month period passed without communication. See Wis. Stat. § 48.415(1)(a)3. (¶¶11-14).

As to good cause, Robert claims that the mother’s threats to call the police, her unpredictability, and her violence constituted good cause for failing to communicate with his daughter. See Wis. Stat. § 48.415(1)(c)3.b. The court is unpersuaded.

We agree with the circuit court’s conclusion that Robert’s unsupported assertions did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to the question of good cause. Robert claims he was “concerned” about contacting Melissa against her “stated wishes.” Robert admits that Melissa has never called the police on him and never obtained a restraining order against him. Robert asserts no facts supporting an inference that his “concern” prevented him from using a telephone, the mail, or some other means of communication from afar, and there is nothing in the record, such as a court order, that would indicate that calling, texting, or writing would somehow have led to his apprehension by police. Robert also had the benefit of a court order allowing him to visit with Jessica—a benefit he has not utilized since October 2013.


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