Procedures for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

This Supreme Court decision establishes new procedures for ineffective assistance of counsel claims for termination of parental rights proceedings. In Re: Amendments to Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure and Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.146, 2017 WL 1090564 (Fla.) In 2015, the Supreme Court established interim procedures for bringing ineffective assistance of counsel claims following […]

Case Plan Compliance

J.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 902184 (Fla. 5th DCA)  Mother appealed termination of her parental rights based solely upon her failure to follow a case plan.  The children were originally removed from Mother due to domestic violence.  Four months before the termination of parental rights trial, random drug tests and substance […]

Statutory Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

If a trial court’s ruling on one of the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights is supported by clear and convincing evidence, the court’s order terminating parental rights is affirmable.  D.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 728063 (Fla. 5th DCA) Mother appealed termination of her parental rights.  The Fifth District Court […]

Statute of Limitations for Negligence Claims

D.H. by and through R.H. v. Adept Community Services, Inc., 2017 WL 1277741 (Fla. 2nd DCA) The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed summary judgment in a negligence case filed by grandparents on behalf of their previously dependent children holding the trial court correctly found the case was initiated outside the statute of […]

Evidence – Supreme Court Declined to Adopt the Daubert Amendment

In Re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, 2017 WL 6337700 (Fla.) The Supreme Court of Florida declined to adopt several legislative amendments, including an amendment (Daubert Amendment) replacing the Frye standard for admitting expert opinion evidence with the Daubert standard. The Daubert Amendment amended Florida Statutes § 90.702 and 90.704 (2012) and changed the […]

Parental Drug Use as a Basis for Dependency

M.S.v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 456892 (Fla. 5th DCA)   Father appealed an adjudication order, which found his children dependent based on his recent drug-related arrests. No evidence was presented as to the circumstances of the arrests or how the arrests harmed the children. The Fifth DCA found evidence of drug use […]

Immigration – Determination of Dependency

M.P.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 192024 (Fla. 4th DCA) Establishing dependency based on being a child with “no parent or legal custodians capable of providing supervision and care.” § 39.01(15)(e), Fla. Stat. (2015) Judge Forst’s dissent noted the textual discrepancy between Florida Statute § 39.01(15) (e), which limits a child’s caregiver to “parents […]

Witness Testimony – Right to Confront Witness

S.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 52636 (Fla. 3rd DCA) Dependency proceedings are civil in nature. The constitutional right to confront witnesses does not apply. Father appealed termination of his parental rights based on his alleged lack of consent to a witness testifying via Skype, the lack of a notary to administer […]

Interpreting the S.M. Case – Least Restrictive Means

Guardian ad Litem Program v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 7497280 (Fla. 5th DCA) This is the first district court case applying the least restrictive means test since it was recently clarified by the Supreme Court of Florida. S.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children and Families, 202 So. 3d 769, 778 (Fla. 2016). […]

B.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 6781614 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Mother and Father moved for rehearing and a written opinion. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) denied the request for a rehearing but granted the request for a written opinion. The Fourth DCA affirmed termination of the parents’ rights. Evidence was presented at the trial court that an infant child of the parents was found buried […]

R.M. v. State, Dept. of Children and Families, 2016 WL 6476935 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Mother and Father appealed an order adjudicating their children dependent based on neglect, abuse and imminent risk of neglect and/or abuse. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) affirmed adjudication based on neglect but reversed as to all other findings. The Fourth DCA found substantial evidence was presented as to an ongoing rat infestation […]

S.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 6992649 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

  Father appealed termination of his parental rights based on his lack of consent to a witness testifying by Skype, the failure of a notary to administer the oath prior to the witness’s testimony and violation of his right to confront a witness. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) affirmed. Father’s adult daughter testified via Skype […]

M.C. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 6612173 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

This case was previously brought before the Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) and the court reversed termination of the Mother’s rights and directed the court to determine whether the evidence supported adjudication of dependency rather than termination. M.C. v. Department of Children and Families, 186 So. 3d 74 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016). On remand, without hearing any […]

In re J.H., 2016 WL 6777133 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

The Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) appealed an order dismissing a dependency petition for two siblings while adjudicating the third sibling. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed dismissal of the two petitions finding the trial court failed to recognize the nexus between the severe abuse of Le.H. and the substantial risk of […]

In re N.L., 210 So. 3d 1288 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2016)

Father appealed an order adjudicating his child dependent. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed. The trial court found the child to be dependent as to Father solely based on Father’s failure to comply with a case plan for older children previously found dependent. No evidence was presented that the child was at “substantial risk of imminent abuse,abandonment […]

In re D.O., 210 So.3d 1242 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2016)

Father appealed the trial court’s order terminating supervision and jurisdiction over his child.  The Department of Children and Families (Department) and the Guardian ad Litem conceded error, specifically that Father was not given notice that the Department’s motion to terminate protective supervision would be heard at a previously scheduled review hearing. Three days before the scheduled […]

S.M. v. Department of Children and Families, 188 So.3d 982 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016)

Father appealed termination of his parental rights to T.H. The Fifth District Court of Appeal (Fifth DCA) affirmed termination. When T.H. was two years old, Father was found guilty by reason of insanity of homicide and involuntarily committed. He remained institutionalized almost continuously since then. T.H. was adjudicated dependent in 2011. Four years later, T.H. […]

B.B.S. v. Rodriguez-Murguia, 2016 WL 2744994 (Fla. 4th DCA)

This case involves a child support matter and not a dependency matter but the issue in question could pertain to dependency matters. The appellants (the Children) appealed a trial court order dismissing their cause of action to determine maternity.   The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The Children’s […]

M.D. v. State, 187 So.3d 1275 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

Father appealed termination of his parental rights which was based on abandonment. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) affirmed termination. Father was incarcerated at the time of the termination trial and had been incarcerated for the two years prior to the trial. Father testified at trial that the last time he saw his […]

E.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 2731654 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

E.G., a 15 year old dependent youth, petitioned the court for a writ of certiorari quashing portions of an order directing E.G. to “voluntarily” enter into residential drug treatment, abstain from illegal drugs, and abstain from running away. Mother had filed a motion to have E.G. removed from her home and returned to foster care. […]

B.J. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 1578492 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Mother appealed an order of adjudication and disposition of dependency. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) reversed adjudication.Mother and Father were spending the weekend in a hotel with their two children. Mother co-slept with the children, while Father slept on a pull-out sofa. Mother awoke and found their 4 month old child cold […]

In re Le.H., 2016 WL 3001283 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Both the parents and the Guardian ad litem Program filed petitions for a writ of certiorari to review an order sheltering one child but denying to shelter his siblings. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA), denied the parents’ petition but granted the GAL’s petition and quashed the portion of the order denying to […]

D.V. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 805306 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Father appealed termination of his parental rights. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) agreed with Father that the trial court erred in failing to advise Father of his right to counsel at the manifest best interests hearing. The Fourth DCA reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Father had counsel who represented him in […]

Guardian ad Litem Program v. M.H., 184 So.3d 1253 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

The Guardian ad Litem program appealed denial of termination of parental rights. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The specific question at issue before the Fourth DCA was whether proof of a guilty plea or conviction in a criminal proceeding was required for termination of parental rights […]

R.W. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 1239878 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) affirmed termination. The Third DCA found merit in only one of the issues mother raised on appeal, her claim that the trial court’s participation in the questioning of witnesses at the adjudication hearing constituted an abandonment of neutrality and impartiality. […]

M.C. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 717694 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights under § 39.806(1)(f). The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) reversed termination. The underlying petition for termination of Mother’s rights alleged that Mother took E.C. to the hospital with “second degree, caustic, liquid burns” on his back, buttocks, right shoulder and right side of his body. Mother […]

Department of Children and Families v. Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program, 2016 WL 869317 (Fla. 1st DCA)

The Department of Children and Families sought certiorari review of a trial court order limiting the Department’s consideration of prospective adoptive homes to one particular family for a sibling group of five children. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) agreed that the order violated the separation of powers doctrine and granted certiorari. At […]

Department of Children and Families v. B.C., 2016 WL 635072 (Fla. 1st DCA)

The Department of Children and Families and the Guardian ad Litem Program appealed denial of a petition for termination of parental rights. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) reversed denial and remanded for further proceedings. Although the trial court found the termination of parental rights was statutorily warranted and in the manifest best […]

Department of Children and Families v. S.A.E., 184 So.3rd 615 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016)

The Department of Children and Families appealed an order adjudicating A.A.A.-E . dependent, asserting the trial court misapplied § 39.01(15)(a). The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) reversed the dependency adjudication. Mother filed a petition for dependency regarding her son, A.A.A.-E., based on abandonment by Father 12 years prior in Honduras. Mother moved to […]

Department of Children and Families v. J.S.,2016 WL 145866 (Fla. 4th DCA)

The Department of Children and Families and the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program appealed a final judgment denying the department’s Petition to terminate the rights of both parents. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed denial of termination. The child resided with Mother for the first two years of his life. The child […]

In re S.A.R.D., 182 So.3d 897 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016)

S.A.R.D. appealed dismissal of his private petition for dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed, finding the record supported the trial court’s finding that S.A.R.D. was not abandoned, abused or neglected by his mother. S.A.R.D. asserted in his petition that he was born in Honduras. He lived primarily with his mother and […]

In re E.P.N., 180 So.3d 249 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

Although the majority affirmed summary denial of E.P.N.’s appeal, a dissent was filed by Justice Salter. Salter noted factual differences in E.P.N.’s case that he believed established a prima facie basis for her claims and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on her petition. E.P.N. was released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to her […]

In re B.R.C.M., 2015 WL 9584743 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

B.R.C.M. appealed a summary dismissal of his Petition for Dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed and Judge Salter filed a lengthy dissent. B.R.C.M. was born in Guatemala, abandoned by his father at birth and abandoned by his mother when he was four years old. He was raised by his grandmother until […]

In re S.M., 2016 WL 275273 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Father appealed a final judgment terminating his parental rights and an order denying his motion to set aside his implied consent to termination based on his failure to appear at the hearing. Father asserted that he provided evidence of excusable neglect for his failure to appear. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed […]

In re B.F., 2016 WL 166669 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. Although the Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed, the Second DCA issued an opinion to express its concern with the elimination of the nexus requirement in amended  § 39.806(1)(f). The Second DCA noted concern regarding the constitutionality of the amendment, specifically that the amendment might not […]

In re E.D., 2015 WL 9487592 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed but was “compelled to write to remind the trial court about the strict time frames in cases involving the termination of parental rights.” The trial court did not issue its final judgment until eight months after the termination hearing. […]

In re A.W., 2015 WL 9258506 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights to her daughters, S.W. and A.W. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court erroneously applied a statutory amendment retroactively in its findings. N.W. lived with her long-term girlfriend T.H., T.H.’s daughter T.K.H, and N.W.’s daughters. N.W. and T.H. had […]

J.P. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 167394 (Fla. 1st DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights as to her daughter, T.P. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) affirmed the TPR utilizing the “highly deferential” standard of review. T.P. came to the attention of the department following two hospitalizations for nephrotic syndrome and allegations of medical neglect. Mother was provided training on her […]

Department of Children and Families v. B.C., 2016 WL 635072 (Fla. 1st DCA)

To terminate parental rights there must be: the existence of a statutory ground for termination under § 39.806; that termination is in the child’s manifest best interests under § 39.810; and the termination of parental rights is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from serious harm. The trial court concluded based on clear […]

Tluzek v. Tluzek, 2015 WL 7017418 (Fla. 5th DCA)

Former wife appealed a final judgment of dissolution. Former Wife argued that it was reversible error to order that their monthly adoption subsidy should be offset against Former Husband’s child support obligations. The Fifth District Court of Appeals (Fifth DCA) found that an adoption subsidy provided by the State of Florida to the parents of […]

C.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 7007794 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Father appealed termination of his parental rights on the grounds of “egregious conduct.” The Fourth District Court of Appeals (Fourth DCA) found that the life and death consequences of Father’s lack of providing proper medical care supported a finding that his conduct was egregious as defined by Florida Statute § 39.806(1)(f). The child at issue […]

T.B. v. Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 6496316 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Father appealed an order which placed his children in a permanent guardianship with a relative; terminated supervision by the Department of Children and Families; and modified Father’s visitation with the children to comport with the relative’s planned move out of state. The Fourth District Court of Appeals (Fourth DCA) reversed the order finding that it […]

In re E.D., 2015 WL 9487592 (Fla. 2d DCA)

In affirming the trial court’s final judgment that terminated the mother’s parental rights to her four children, the Second District Court of Appeal emphasized the importance of trial courts adhering to specific time frames in cases involving termination of parental rights.  In this case, the trial court did not render its final termination of parental […]