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Lack of developed argument as to why “direct evidence” from foster parents should be required at a TPR dispositional hearing dooms appeal

Dane County DHS v. S.M., 2023AP607, 6/8/23, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (briefs not available).

In an appeal challenging the circuit court’s decision to terminate S.M.’s parental rights, the court of appeals concludes the court did not need to receive “direct evidence” from the proposed adoptive parents before exercising its discretion and entering a termination order.

Right out of the gate, this is an interesting appeal: S.M. challenges the circuit court’s discretionary order terminating her parental rights but concedes that the circuit court properly considered the required factors under § 48.426(3) (¶8). The court of appeals, given the record and the deferential standard of review, has no trouble accepting that concession. (Id.). Instead, S.M.’s only argument on appeal is that the circuit court erred when it considered the possibility of adoption in ascertaining the child’s best interests in the absence of “direct testimony or other evidence from the prospective adoptive parents.” (¶17). Despite testimony touching on these topics from a social worker–and the expressed opinions of the GAL which also took into account the possibility of adoption–S.M. persists in her claim that without the foster parents as witnesses, the court’s discretionary decision was unsupported.

As the court of appeals points out, however, S.M. has not cited any legal authority for such an argument, “likely because no such authority exists.” (¶20). Her arguments on appeal are “without merit” and the order of the circuit court therefore easily affirmed by COA. (¶21).

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