It is heartbreaking to observe a child suffering from parental neglect and/or abuse, and it is understandable that you want to know what your legal options are for protecting the child’s best interests in Child In Need of Protective Services (CHIPS) or Juvenile In Need of Protective Services (JIPS) cases.
Guardianship Rights in Wisconsin CHIPS and JIPS Cases
The Wisconsin Statutes outline what the court takes into consideration when deciding if guardianship will be granted. The court will examine whether the parent in question is unfit or otherwise unable to parent the child. A Guardian ad Litem will be appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests, investigate the parenting situation and make recommendations to the court based on their findings.
The judgment on parental fitness is crucial; the court will not proceed with making a judgment on the best interest of the child until finding the parent to be unfit. Absent that judgment, it is presumed that being with their parent is in the child’s best interest.
If the court may decide that granting guardianship is in the child’s best interest if the parents are judged to be unfit. Guardianship essentially transfers physical placement and legal custody to the guardian to care for and make all major decisions for the child. The guardianship will remain in effect until the child reaches the age of 18 in order to provide permanency and stability. It is important to note that the parents still retain their parental rights under a guardianship.
Adoption Rights in Wisconsin CHIPS and JIPS Cases
Adoption grants the adopting parent full legal rights to the child. It is a permanent lifetime commitment that is not to be taken lightly.
The parental rights of the legal or biological parents must be terminated before an adoption can occur. Wisconsin law outlines the grounds for termination of parental rights, which commonly include finding the presence of “abandonment” and “failure to assume parental responsibility”, and “continuing CHIPS”. Like a guardianship action, the parents must be found to be unfit, unwilling, or unable before their parental rights can be terminated. This legal decision is final and permanent, leaving the biological parent with no legal rights connected to the child once their rights have been terminated.
Termination of parental rights involves two phases with the first being the grounds phase to prove there are legal grounds sufficient to terminate parental rights pursuant to Wisconsin State statutes, and the second is the best interests phase to prove that the termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests. The first phase can be decided by a twelve-person jury or the judge (parents’ choice), and the second phase is decided by the Court. Even if grounds exist, the Court can find that a termination is not in the child’s best interest. As far as adoption is concerned, if a termination is granted, there is no state waiting period for a relative adoption. However, it is necessary to have a social worker or licensed agency conduct an adoption study in advance of filing the action. An attorney can provide you with a referral.
Discuss Your Concerns with Experienced Legal Counsel
The skilled and experienced family lawyers at Walden, Neitzke & Kuhary, S.C. can help you successfully maneuver the laws and protections that apply to your unique CHIPS or JIPS case. Whether you are a step-parent, grandparent or simply someone concerned about a child’s wellbeing, we welcome the opportunity to address your concerns and determine the best legal strategy for protecting the safety and wellbeing of the child.
Call 262-547-5517 or use our online contact form to schedule a meeting. We serve clients in Waukesha and the surrounding communities.