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TPR attorney wasn’t ineffective; but circuit court erred in refusing to hold dispositional hearing

S.D. v. A.V., 2018AP1150, District 4, 3/7/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

S.D. petitioned to terminate the parental rights of A.V., her ex-husband, after he was convicted and sent to prison for possession of child pornography. The court of appeals affirms the unfitness finding but remands for a dispositional hearing.

A.V.’s challenges to the grounds hearing are premised on a handful of ineffective assistance of counsel claims. These highly fact-specific claims are rejected, as trial counsel either had a reasonable strategic basis for her actions or the asserted deficiencies aren’t prejudicial. (¶¶17-35).

There is a problem, however: After finding grounds for termination the circuit court immediately terminated A.V.’s parental rights without holding a dispositional hearing to determine the best interests of the child. (¶6). S.D. concedes this was error. The circuit court is required to hold a separate dispositional hearing. The termination order is therefore reversed and the case remanded for that hearing. (¶¶36-38).

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