In Interest of C.E.W

In In Interest of C.E.W., 124 Wis. 2d 47, 368 N.W.2d 47 (1985), the Waukesha County Department of Social Services filed a petition requesting the involuntary termination of the parental rights of C.E.W., the natural father, to his three minor children. See id. at 49. The natural mother's parental rights had already been terminated. The circuit court dismissed the petition for termination of the parental rights of C.E.W. because according to the circuit court, "the jury ... returned a verdict finding that it was not appropriate at this time to terminate the parental rights of C.E.W.." Id. C.E.W. came to the supreme court on certification by the court of appeals, where the question before the supreme court was "whether in proceedings for the termination of parental rights the best interests of the child standard is to be applied throughout the entire proceeding." Id. at 59. The supreme court articulated the answer: A termination of parental rights hearing is a bifurcated procedure: The initial stage is a fact finding hearing which determines whether grounds for terminating parental rights exist.... In the second stage of the proceeding the circuit court decides the disposition of the child.... Therefore, in contrast to the language in sec. 48.01(2), the language of secs. 48.424(3) and 48.426(2) appears to limit the "best interests" standard to the dispositional stage in the termination proceeding. We conclude that at the fact finding stage, the fact finder-here the jury-does not consider the best interests of the child standard. (C.E.W., 124 Wis. 2d at 60-61.)