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St. Croix County DHHS v. Michael D. & Juanita A., 2014AP2431, petition for review granted 4/16/15

Review of an unpublished court of appeals decision; case activity

Issue (composed by On Point):

Do §§ 48.415(2)(a)1. and 48.356(2) require the final CHIPS order filed before a TPR petition warn the parent about grounds for termination and the conditions for return or the child, or is it sufficient that the parent was given “adequate notice” of the grounds for termination and conditions of return during the pendency of the CHIPS proceeding?

This case will be important to anyone handling TPR cases based on continuing CHIPS grounds. As explained in our previous post on this case, the court of appeals read Waukesha County v. Steven H., 2000 WI 28, 233 Wis. 2d 344, 607 N.W.2d 607, to mandate that the last CHIPS order provide the written notice required by § 48.356(2). The court rejected the County’s reliance on Waushara County v. Lisa K., 2000 WI App 145, 237 Wis. 2d 830, 615 N.W.2d 204, which had read Steven H. to require only “adequate notice” and found that standard satisfied even though the final CHIPS order hadn’t included the conditions of return.

While the court of appeals acknowledged its prior holding in Lisa K., it concluded Steven H.‘s strict approach governed, it also noted it is powerless to overrule, modify, or withdraw language from one of its prior opinions. The question, then, is which reading of Steven H. is correct: The stricter, bright-line approach followed in this case (which is supported by the plain language of § 48.415(2)(a)1.)? Or the looser, open-ended “adequate notice” under approach from Lisa K.? The case will be argued and decided next term.

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