Dade County Bar Honors Guardian ad Litem Attorney

[Tallahassee, Florida] – The Dade County Bar Association has named Frances Feinberg, director of the program that represents child victims and witnesses in Miami-Dade criminal court, as one of its Women of Distinction for 2018. Feinberg, who oversees Guardian ad Litem’s Criminal Court Project for the 11th Judicial Circuit, won the Dade Bar’s Women of […]

STANDING TO CHALLENGE PATERNITY-section 742.18, Fla. Stat. (2017) does not preclude an individual from challenging a paternity determination pursuant to section 742.10(4).

In Interest of Y.R-P., — So.3d —- (2017) In a pending dependency proceeding with competing paternity claims, O.R., the biological father, filed a motion to disestablish paternity for J.R.-P., the purported father who was named as father on birth certificate. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on O.R.’s motion where both DCF and the […]

DISESTABLISHINIG PATERNITY, PRIVETTE AND CHAPTER 742.18-Privette best interest inquiry applies only in contested cases where a child faces the threat of being declared illegitimate, and the legal father faces the threat of losing parental rights which he seeks to maintain. Section 742.18 of the Florida Statutes provides a mechanism by which a man may disestablish his paternity without the requirement that another putative father is willing to establish paternity.

L.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 227 So.3d 653 (2017) L.G. was never married to the mother, but he acknowledged paternity on the child’s birth certificate. During the dependency proceedings, L.G. petitioned to disestablish paternity based on newly discovered evidence-namely, a recent DNA test showing that he was not the biological father of the […]

UNPLED GROUNDS AND IMPLIED CONSENTtermination of parents’ parental rights pursuant to 39.806(1)(e) as to one child was improper since there was no adjudication of dependency and no case plan filed. DCA held unpled grounds were not tried by implied consent.

T.H. v. State, Department of Children and Families, 226 So.3d 915 (2017) The Department filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights as to S.H. based on section 39.806(1)(b), (1)(c), and (1)(e) and based on section 39.806(1)(b) for Father. After the petition was filed, Mother gave birth to another child, T.D.H., who was sheltered and […]

39.521(3)(b) and 39.522(3) AND PERMANENT PLACEMENT WITH NON-OFFENDING PARENT-trial court erred by applying wrong statutory provision resulting in permanent placement of child with non-offending father without proper findings.

K.C. v. Department of Children and Families, 227 So.3d 783 (2017) Mother appealed the trial court’s order awarding permanent custody of her child to the non-offending Father by erroneously applying section 39.521(3)(b), Florida Statutes (2015), rather than section 39.522(3), although Mother had been diligently working on case plan with a goal of reunification. Section 39.521(3)(b) […]

IMPLIED CONSENT BY FAILURE TO APPEAR-mother’s failure to appear at trial to terminate her parental rights was not due to “forces or circumstances beyond [her] control”; therefore, default by consent was proper.

C.R. v. Department of Children and Families, 225 So.3d 393 (2017) Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights based on her failure to appear at trial, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in entering a default consent (a/k/a/ implied consent by failure to appear) because she was unable to attend the trial […]

CONTEMPORANEOUS OBJECTIONS AND APPEAL-the trial court terminated the mother’s rights to her autistic teenaged son based on medical neglect and case plan noncompliance. DCA affirmed because the order was supported by the evidence and challenges were not preserved below.

E.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL4966896 (Fla. 4th DCA Nov. 1, 2017)[4D17-2183] The Fourth DCA affirmed the order terminating mother’s parental rights finding the record was replete with evidence to support the trial court’s order and that any challenges to the admission of evidence were neither preserved for appellate review, nor supported by […]

§39.806(1)(c) AND FUTILITY-termination of father’s parental rights order reversed where the Department did not offer evidence to establish that the provision of mental health and substance abuse services to father would be futile.

C.W. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 4844895 (Fla. 1st DCA Oct. 27, 2017)[1D17-2696] In another recent opinion addressing section 39.806(1)(c) as grounds for terminating parental rights, the First DCA reversed the trial court’s order terminating father’s parental rights based on the Department’s concession of error. The trial court terminated father’s parental rights […]

§39.806(1)(c) AND LEAST RESTRICTIVE MEANS-the trial court’s findings that additional services would be futile was sufficient to establish least restrictive means. Court order denying TPR reversed and case remanded for findings regarding the Manifest Best Interest factors.

R.W. v. DCF & GAL v. R.A.D. & R.W., 2017WL5041968 (Fla. 5th DCA Oct. 31, 2017) [5D17-2010, 2012, 2027, cons.] After a hearing on a petition to terminate parental rights, the trial court concluded that the Department proved grounds for termination against both parents under section 39.806(1)(c) (continuing involvement threatens, irrespective of services) and section […]

ADOPTION INTERVENTION AND BEST INTEREST OF CHILD-Transfer of custody to prospective adoptive parents under the Adoption Intervention Statute requires a best interest analysis considering all factors enumerated in section 63.082(6)(e) of the Florida Statutes.

W.K. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2017); 42 Fla. L. Weekly D1909, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D2043 The child was sheltered two months after birth and placed with foster parents. During the pendency of a petition to terminate parental rights, the mother executed a surrender and consent to adopt with Adoption […]

Now Accepting Proposals for the 2018 Disabilities Training Conference

2018 Florida Guardian ad Litem Disabilities Training Conference  Each year the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program holds a training conference for child welfare attorneys, child welfare professionals, private attorneys, and judges who represent and work with dependent children with disabilities.This popular conference is known for its advanced material and workshops. The Florida Guardian ad Litem […]

Adoption Bill

Adoption Bill SB 774 – Sponsor Senator Aaron Bean Adoption Bill HB 505 – Sponsor Representative Rick Roth Talking Points – SB 774 & HB 505  

Incarcerated Parents

An Act related to Incarcerated Parents – SB 522: Sponsor Senator Aaron Bean  An Act related to Incarcerated Parents – HB 281: Sponsor Representative Patricia Williams Talking Points – Engaging Incarcerated Parents House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee, November 8, 2017 – Representative Patricia Williams presents Incarcerated Parents Bill

Pro Bono Matters

Pro Bono Matters Act of 2018 – SB 146 Sponsor: Senator Aaron Bean Pro Bono Matters Act of 2018 – HB 57 Sponsor: Representative Frank White Putting ‘Florida Bar Pro Bono Matters’ Into Action for Children with Special Needs Bill would pay court costs for pro bono lawyers for special needs kids Senate Judiciary Committee, […]

Audrey Schiebler Volunteer of the Year Award – Christine Hoyne

The GAL Program’s Audrey Schiebler Volunteer of the Year Award is a superlative without comparison!  Florida’s GAL Program has the most caring, dedicated, and creative volunteers whose excellence in advocacy is literally life-altering for children. At the top of these ranks this year is Christine Hoyne from the 16th Circuit. Christine exemplifies the best of the GAL […]

Circuit Team Award – Vince Rieger, Pat Smith, Pam Peterson, & Kari Marsland-Petit

Team advocacy for the child’s best interests is the hallmark of the GAL Program, and the work of Circuit 6 team – Vince Rieger (Volunteer), Pat Smith (Volunteer), Pam Peterson (Child Advocate Manager), and Kari Marsland-Petit (Best Interests Attorney). They demonstrate why this collaboration is so important for children. Pat and Pam were assigned a […]

Angela Orkin Dedication Award – Karen Orchowski

Karen’s talent for streamlining information, attention to detail, and her willingness to help others made her an obvious choice for the Angela Orkin Dedication Award! Having accurate, up-to-date information about the children the Program represents is crucial to effective advocacy, and Karen’s incredible work with Optima has had a positive impact on representation statewide. She […]

Executive Director Award – Meliza Frias

Tireless, tenacious advocacy is what won Meliza Frias the Executive Director Award! Meliza is a passionate advocate for all the children she represents, and this commitment was highlighted in a case that started in 2013 involving 4 children from one family separated in different group homes. Meliza was determined to get the children back together […]

Leadership Award – Susan Somers

Leadership, integrity and innovation in attaining GAL goals and objectives – these are the hallmarks of the Leadership Award.  This year, the Program proudly awards it to Susan Somers! Susan does a wonderful job of managing the large network of attorneys in the 11th circuit. She has done a great job transitioning from sharing the […]

Barbra Sessa Award – Janet Anderson

The GAL Program celebrates Janet Anderson for winning this year’s Barbra Sessa Award. Janet’s passion for and connection with the children she represents makes her a stand-out in her circuit. If Janet is not in court or busily working away at her computer, she is on the phone with volunteers or talking to the children […]

Daniel P. Dawson Award – Natalee Hamilton

The GAL Program is honored to award Natalee Hamilton, Senior Child’s Best Interest Attorney in Circuit 19, the Judge Dawson Award. In her nomination, Natalee was described as enthusiastic, dedicated, and passionate. Her supreme knowledge of the law and world-class courtroom skills are some of the things that inspired her colleagues to submit her name.  In […]

Competency: No violation of due process in conducting TPR trial against incompetent parent

A.M. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL3085350 (Fla. 4th DCA) In this appeal of an order terminating mother’s parental rights, the Fourth DCA extended its previous holding that conducting a dependency adjudication against an incompetent parent does not violate due process, to a termination trial where the mother’s mental health was the core issue […]

Motion for Reunification Requires an Evidentiary Hearing: Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on her motion for reunification with dependent child before court granted Department of Children and Families’ motion to terminate protective services

J.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 220 So.3d 555 (2017) The Department of Children and Families filed motion to terminate protective supervision as to child, who was in the custody of her non-offending father, and the Mother filed a motion for reunification, asserting that she had completed her case plan services. Without conducting a […]

Implied Consent to Termination Petition: Trial court erred in denying motion to vacate implied consent on unique facts of the case

T.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL2960589, 3D17-727 (Fla. 3d DCA Jul. 12, 2017) At the outset of the TPR trial, the Department moved for a continuance, which the court granted. The Department then asked the court to enter an implied consent against the father because of his failure to appear after proper notice. […]

Section 39.806(1)(i) and Required Findings in Court Order: Case remanded to the trial court to make required findings that reunification would be a substantial risk to the child

L.J. v. Department of Children and Families, 220 So.3d 557 (2017) The trial court entered a final judgment terminating father’s parental rights to the child pursuant to 39.806(1)(i) on the basis that he had rights to two other children terminated. The trial court’s order included findings as to each statutory factor, discussed the manifest best […]

Case Plan Amendment: Trial court departed from the essential requirements of law when it changed case plan goal from reunification to permanent guardianship without an adequate evidentiary basis

S.C.P. v. Department of Children and Families, 220 So.3d 1290 (2017) Only a few months after accepting a reunification case plan, the court changed the goal of mother’s case plan from reunification to permanent guardianship, despite finding the mother in compliance with her case plan. Noting that the rules and statutes contemplate an evidentiary basis […]

Error for trail court to modify permanency as to father who was not present at the hearing

T.B. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2017) After the parents substantially complied with their case plans, the trial court reunified as to both parents and set a judicial review hearing for six months later as required by section 39.701(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2016). Shortly after reunification, but before the hearing, the father […]

Single Parent TPR: Reversal of order terminating father’s parental rights on appeal requires reversal of order terminating mother’s parental rights as well.

A.M.B. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2017) Both parent’s rights were terminated below, but order terminating father’s parental rights was reversed on appeal based on concession of error by Department of Children and Families. Following precedent set by the Second DCA, the First DCA held that order terminating mother’s rights must […]

Postdisposition Change of Custody: Order effectively granting reunification quashed where dependency court failed to apply proper statutory provisions, misconstrued the evidence and findings were not supported by competent substantial evidence.

In the Interest of I.N., a child. E.N., Petitioner, v…., — So.3d —- (2017) The Second DCA reversed a trial court’s order which “effectively reunified” a child with a father who is alleged to have sexually abused the child. The DCA found that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by failing […]

Always in need, guardians protect kids in the court system

Click here to read a great article by Patrice Russell from the Bradford County Telegraph-Union County Times. This article highlights Alachua, Bradford, Baker, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties discussing the work of the Guardian ad Litem Program as well as the local circuit’s nonprofit The Guardian Foundation, Inc.

QPI/GAL Interview

Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director, Alan Abramowitz is interviewed by David Brown. David Brown is the Program Coordinator for Quality Parenting Initiative. Their interview discusses promoting the role of care givers and working together as a team. QPI/GAL Interview

Florida Bar News – GAL project aims to help children

Read how the the Florida Bar Pro Bono Committee Appellate Practice Section has partnered with the Guardian ad Litem Program on the Defending Best Interest Project. This project will allow more Florida attorneys to use their skills to defend the best interests of dependent children when challenged on appeal. GAL Project aims to help children

2017 Disabilities Training Conference Videos Available Now

This year over 450 attorneys, judges and child welfare professionals attended the Third Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Disabilities Training Conference. The keynote speakers and panels were inspiring thought provoking and gave us all tools to use in helping the children we work with every day. The workshops were wide ranging with presenters sharing their […]

Trial Court Order Remanded for Additional Findings

L.J. a/k/a/ M.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 2605106 (Fla 5th DCA) The trial court entered a final judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to his child, A.J., on the basis that father had rights to two other children terminated. The trial court’s order included findings as to each statutory factor under section […]

Modification of Visitation Order: Requires Proper Notice and a Proof of a Substantial Change in Material Circumstances and that Modification is Required to Protect the Child’s Best Interests

Florida Department of Children and Families, v. P.I., the Mother, and M.H., the Father, 2017 WL 2265372 (Fla. 3d DCA) At the shelter hearing, the court ordered no contact with the parents based on explicit findings of “egregious physical abuse” by the mother and “failure to protect” by the father. The children were placed in […]

Admission of Evidence: No Abuse of Discretion in Denying Untimely Request for Expert Witness Testimony

K.A. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL1494002 (Fla. 3d DCA) The mother appealed from the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights. She argued the court erred in denying her right to present expert testimony regarding her psychological issues and returning children to the father, despite alleged domestic violence incidents. The Third DCA affirmed. […]

Statute of Limitations For Negligence Claims: Appointment of GAL in Dependency Case Should Not Extinguish Children’s Causes of Action

D.H. by and through R.H. v. Adept Community Services, Inc., 2017 WL 1277741 (Fla. 2d DCA) The children were born to a developmentally disabled mother. The mother received in-home support under a Medicaid program. The services were intended to help her live on her own and care for the children. The services failed to meet […]

ICPC: Juvenile Court Not Authorized to Relinquish Jurisdiction over Children Prior to Complying with ICPC Home Study Requirement

State Department of Children and Families v. M.A., 215 So.3d 1276 (2017) The children were adjudicated dependent and placed with the maternal grandmother. The father was not a party to the dependency action. In seeking to obtain custody of his children and relocate them to his home in Indiana, the father requested a home study […]

Paternity: Biological Father of Child Born to Intact Marriage Has Extremely Limited Rights and a “Casual Interest in Fatherhood” Found Insufficient To Trigger Constitutional Protection

M.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL1718807 (Fla. 4th DCA) The putative father filed a motion to intervene in a TPR proceeding where child was born into an existing marriage. Although the putative father was named on the child’s birth certificate and he was present at the shelter hearing, he waited 18 months to […]

Guardian ad Litem’s “Defending Best Interests Project” on fast track for lawyers to help children pro bono

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program is pleased to announce its latest pro bono initiative, the “Defending Best Interests Project” which will allow more Florida attorneys to use their skills to defend the best interests of dependent children when challenged on appeal. In dependency court, it is a fundamental principle that the child’s best interests […]