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No erroneous exercise of discretion in terminating parental rights

State v. A.L.M., 2019AP1599, 2019AP1600, & 2019AP1601, District 1, 11/19/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

After A.L.M. pled no contest to failing to assume parental responsibility, the circuit court terminated his parental rights. The evidence was sufficient to support that conclusion.

¶12  A.L.M. contends that the circuit court did not give appropriate consideration to: the possibility of the children’s relationships being severed; the wishes of the children; and the guarantee of the children’s adoption. We disagree.

¶13  In a thoughtful, detailed decision, the circuit court considered the appropriate factors as they applied to the facts in this case. The court expressed concern about ending the children’s relationships, but took measures to mitigate its concern by ordering continued contact pending the children’s adoptions. The court weighed its concern against A.L.M.’s “destructive” influence on the children and determined that severing the sibling relationship was a necessary, but “troubling aspect of [its] decision.”

¶14  The circuit court also considered the wishes of the children, but noted that it gave the children’s preferences “little weight.” The court clearly stated that it did not consider this factor as heavily as the other statutory factors because of the children’s “age and trauma history.” The court explained its reasons for considering other factors more heavily, ultimately concluding that “it [is] very clear that [termination] is the only path to safe, loving permanence for the children.” Moreover, A.L.M. ignores evidence on the record that S.-L.E.M. and S.M.M. both expressed desires to remain in their foster homes.

¶15  Finally, the circuit court appropriately considered the adoptability of the children. Wisconsin Stat. § 48.426(3) does not require the court to consider a guarantee of the children’s adoption, but rather the likelihood of their adoption. The court did just that. The court found “these three children are most likely to actually be adopted and avoid the prospect of becoming and remaining orphans for the rest of their lives.” The record supports the court’s finding. ….

The court (¶16) criticizes A.L.M. for failing to consider the standard of review—erroneous exercise of discretion—which (face it, people!) is metaphysically impossible to overcome.

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