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Court properly exercised discretion in terminating parental rights

Waushara County DHS v. V.L., 2016AP23, District 4, 2/25/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

V.L. challenged the circuit court’s decision to terminate her parental rights to her son R.E.L., arguing the circuit court didn’t properly consider four of the factors under § 48.426(3). The court of appeals finds no erroneous exercise of discretion.

V.L. took issue with the court’s consideration of the factors under § 48.426(3)(b), (c), (d), and (f), but the court of appeals says the circuit court either explicitly considered the factor or, to the extent it didn’t, the evidence presented at the trial and disposition hearing supported termination. (¶¶9-13).

¶8     V.L.’s arguments on appeal amount to a complaint that the circuit court failed to properly exercise its discretion by failing to explicitly recite each of the Wis. Stat. § 48.426(3) factors by name or number. However, the circuit court was not required to use any “magic words” in rendering its decision, see Michael A.P. v. Solsrud, 178 Wis. 2d 137, 151, 502 N.W.2d 918 (Ct. App. 1993), and this court will defer to the circuit court and affirm so long as the record reflects that the court properly considered each factor. See Darryl T.-H. [v. Margaret H., 2000 WI 42], 234 Wis. 2d 606, ¶¶29, 35[, 610 N.W.2d 475]. Thus, for example, because the circuit court stated that it had reviewed the county social worker’s dispositional report and the report regarding the feasibility of adoption, this court will “independently review” these documents to determine whether they provide “a basis for the court’s exercise of discretion.” See State v. Mainiero, 189 Wis. 2d 80, 95, 525 N.W.2d 304 (Ct. App.1994). Here, the evidence in the record either reflects that the court properly took into consideration the § 48.426(3) factor at issue, or reflects evidence supporting the court’s decision relative to the factor.

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