Sections 39.521 and 39.522 Fla. Stat. (2017)-Order terminating protective services and jurisdiction reversed due to trial court’s failure to comply with requirements of § 39.521(7) and § 39.522(7) of the Florida Statutes

In Interest of S.E., — So.3d —- (2018) Father appealed the trial court’s order terminating protective services and jurisdiction, reunifying the child with the mother, and denying a motion for rehearing. The Second DCA accepted concessions of error by the Department and the GAL to the extent they acknowledged that the court failed to comply […]

Clear and Convincing Evidence-Order terminating parental rights will be affirmed so long as at least one of the statutory grounds pursuant to § 39.806(1) is supported by clear and convincing evidence, termination is in the manifest best interest of the child and is the least restrictive means to protect the child from harm

K.C. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) Trial court terminated father’s parental rights pursuant to §§ 39.806(1)(b), (c) and (e)1.  Father appealed and Fifth DCA reversed as to the findings under §§ 39.806(1)(b) and (c) because these grounds were not proved by clear and convincing evidence.  However, the TPR order was […]

Competent Substantial Evidence-Trial court’s determination that child was at substantial risk of imminent harm was not supported by competent substantial evidence

C.H. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) The child was adjudicated dependent upon trial court’s finding child was at substantial risk of imminent harm after being placed in the custody of an inappropriate caregiver by the mother.  The court found that the caregiver was inappropriate because she had a prior case […]

Statute of Repose and Standing-Appeal barred by statute of repose and dismissed where biological father was not a legal parent, was not a party to the adoption below and had no standing to challenge the adoption judgment

J.G. v. State, — So.3d —- (2018) Biological father who was active in lives of his children and was participant in TPR proceedings against mother and legal father, yet failed to take steps to obtain legal parental rights, lacked standing to bring appeal of adoption order. In order adjudicating children dependent, the trial court found […]

Due Process-Parents have a due process right to be present for the manifest best interest and least restrictive means portion of proceeding for the termination of their parental rights

R.E.B., Jr. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) Trial court held two hearings regarding termination of parental rights. The first hearing considered only whether there were statutory grounds to terminate father’s parental rights. The second hearing addressed whether termination was in the children’s manifest best interest and the least restrictive means […]

Tolling of Time for Appeal-Adoption following a termination of parental rights is governed by the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure where a motion for rehearing does not toll the time for filing a notice of appeal

B.S. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) The issue in this case concerns the appropriate rules of procedure to be used in adoptions that follow a termination of parental right entered pursuant to Chapter 39.  Here, the Grandmother sought to appeal the trial court’s dismissal of her petition for adoption and […]

Proper Service, Failure to Appear and Constructive Consent to Dependency-Trial court correctly ruled that the mother’s presence at the shelter hearing obviated the need for service of process of the dependency petition and that mother’s failure to attend the arraignment hearing constituted a constructive consent to the adjudication of dependency

C.J.L–M. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) Mother appeared at the shelter hearing and was appointed an attorney. After the court found probable cause for removal, mother signed and was given a copy of the shelter order and notice of hearing which listed the date, time, and location of the arraignment […]

For Father’s Day, consider helping a child without one

On Father’s Day, those with great dads count their blessings. But for too many children, growing up in what the National Fatherhood Initiative calls “the father absence crisis in America,” the lack of a positive role male model will shadow their entire lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in the U.S—one […]

Bar Honors Guardian ad Litem Program for Boosting Board Certification in Juvenile Law

 Tallahassee, Florida – The Florida Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization & Education (BLSE) recognized the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program Thursday for promoting Board Certification in Juvenile Law among attorneys who represent abused and neglected children and their families within the state dependency system. To encourage its own and other attorneys to pursue the lengthy, […]

Guardian ad Litem Program’s Collaboration with The Florida Bar’s Pro Bono Appellate Lawyers Wins TaxWatch Prudential Productivity Award

[Tallahassee, Florida] – What started out as an effort to find volunteers to provide advocacy for children in 25 cases has ballooned into a hugely successful partnership between Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program and private attorneys which is yielding top notch legal advocacy and saving Florida hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, that initiative, called […]

Proposed Final Order-Trial Court’s adoption of a proposed final judgment terminating parental rights is not per se reversible; rather, reversal is required only where the circumstances create an appearance that the judgment does not reflect the judge’s independent decision-making.

D.R. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018), 44 Fla. L. Weekly D253 Department submitted a proposed order at the beginning of TPR trial. After the trial ended, the court adopted the proposed order in full, but added approximately one page of additional findings. Mother appealed, arguing the court failed to conduct […]

Case Plan Goals-Due process requires notice of proposed change to permanency goal and strict adherence to statutory requirements.

In Interest of T.C., — So.3d —- (2018) Mother sought certiorari review of the trial court’s order that placed two of her children in a permanent guardianship with their paternal grandparents and gave the father permanent custody of a third child. Mother argued that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law […]

§39.806(1)(b)-Abandonment and Termination of Parental Rights of Incarcerated Parent. Trial court erred in terminating father’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment due to incarceration.

B.F. v. State, Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018) Child was sheltered at 4 months of age. When child was two years old, the Department filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights based upon several grounds. Father was in and out of jail for a significant portion of the dependency and […]

§39.811(1) and Order of Disposition-Dependency trial court’s findings in support of its decision to not adjudicate a child dependent, after declining to terminate parental rights of child’s father, were insufficient to permit the District Court of Appeal to conduct meaningful review, warranting reversal and remand of dependency determination.

In Interest of K.W., 234 So.3d 835 (2018) The GAL filed a petition to terminate parental rights of mother and father as to their two children, K.W.(1) and K.W.(2). The trial court terminated mother’s parental rights as to both children, but only terminated father’s parental rights to the child, K.W. (1), not to the child, […]

Expedited TPR Pursuant to §39.806(1)(c), (i), (j) and (l) and Least Restrictive Means-Least restrictive mean analysis does not require a reunification case plan in extraordinary cases enumerated in §39.806(2), Fla.Stat. (2017)

K.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 2018 WL 1769747 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) The Department filed an expedited petition to terminate mother’s parental rights under sections 39.806(1)(c), (i), (j) and (l). Despite a decade of involvement with the Department due to mother’s chronic substance abuse, including the removal of seven other children since 2008, […]

Expedited TPR Pursuant to section 39.806(1)(m) and Least Restrictive Means-Least restrictive means analysis does not require a reunification case plan for biological father of child conceived by sexual battery

In Interest of X.W., 2018 WL 793733 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018) The GAL filed an expedited petition to terminate biological father’s parental rights based on his sexual battery of mother when he was twenty-six and she was just eleven years old, and which resulted in the conception of the child, X.W. Despite finding the GAL […]

2018 GAL Disabilities Training Conference

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

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. […]