State v. S.G., 2022AP585-587, 7/19/22, District 1 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

S.G. argued that the circuit court failed to address 2 of the 6 “best interest” factors in §48.426(3) when it terminated her parental rights to her 3 sons. According to the court of appeals, the record proves otherwise.

S.G. says the circuit court failed to consider (1) the ages of her children as required by §48.426(3)(b) and (2) whether they had substantial relationships with other family members and whether it would be harmful to sever those relationships as required by §48.426(3)(c). Here’s why the court of appeals rejects those arguments:

¶13 To start, the circuit court did consider the ages of the children. The circuit court stated that “if for some tragic reason these foster parents were not able to adopt them,” the children were an adoptable age. The circuit court then went on to state that it feared that if termination did not take place now, the children could experience more trauma, and two or three years down the road could have increasing behavioral issues, which would make it more difficult to place the children with an adoptive resource, and at that point, the children could end up dead or in prison. Thus, we conclude that the circuit court did take into consideration the ages of the boys.

¶14 In addition, the circuit court specifically considered the relationships that the children had with other family members. The circuit court found that the children did not have a substantial relationship with their paternal or maternal extended family members. While the circuit court did not explicitly address the relationship the children had with each other, WIS. STAT. § 48.426(3)(c) does not specifically identify which relationships a circuit court is required to consider or how much weight to give to each relationship.

¶15 Moreover, even if the circuit court was required to consider the relationships between the children, and we assume that the children, despite living apart, have a “substantial relationship,” a review of the record does not establish that severing the legal relationship would be “harmful.” See WIS. STAT. § 48.426(3)(c); State v. Margaret H., 2000 WI 42, ¶37, 234 Wis. 2d 606, 610 N.W.2d 475 (When faced with “inadequate findings,” “[a]n appellate court may… review the record anew and affirm if a preponderance of evidence clearly supports the judgment[.]”). The testimony reflected that the foster parents would continue the sibling relationship between the children, thus, no harm would result from legal severance. Accordingly, this factor does not weigh against termination.