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TPR — consent to termination; voluntariness

Florence County DHS v. Jennifer B., 2012AP2314, 2012AP2315, and 2012AP2316, District 3, 4/9/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity: 2012AP2314; 2012AP2315; 2012AP2316 

Jennifer’s consent to terminate her parental rights to her older children was knowing and voluntary despite the fact she received “advice” from numerous people that consenting to termination for those children might help her get back her youngest child who was in foster care in Michigan. The court concludes the advice Jennifer received did not render her consent involuntary because:

  • The advice was not erroneous. Involuntary termination in these cases could constitute a ground for termination of her rights to her youngest child, so she received a benefit by voluntarily consenting to termination. (¶16).
  • The advice was simply that: advice.  She was not advised of “dire consequences” that would happen if she did not voluntarily consent (unlike the parent in T.M.F. v. Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, 112 Wis. 2d 180, 193, 332 N.W.2d 293 (1983));  she did not claim she was told that her youngest child’s return depended on whether she voluntarily consented to terminate her rights to her older children; and she testified unequivocally that she was never promised anything in regard to her youngest child’s return. (¶17).
  • The advice, by itself, did not amount to such a psychological pressure that it rendered Jennifer’s consent involuntary.  “Although Jennifer testified she received this advice sometime before trial, the record shows she disregarded it, choosing instead to proceed with the involuntary termination until the County had presented its entire case-in-chief against her.  We agree with the circuit court that when Jennifer decided to halt the involuntary termination proceedings and consent to a voluntary termination, ‘[T]here were no influences worked on Miss [B.]’”  (¶18).
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