D.C. v. J.M., 133 So.3d 1080 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014)

The mother sought a writ of certiorari quashing a “Partial Order on Foster Parents’ Motion to Intervene” entered by the trial court. The foster parents’ motion alleged that they had “direct and immediate interests” in the dependency cases relating to the mother’s children in their care and that they had a right to intervene and become parties rather than remain mere “participants” as defined by §39.01(50), Fla. Stat. (2013).  The trial court had partially granted the foster parents and the foster parent’s attorney “unfettered access” to the entire dependency file.

The mother (joined by the GAL Program) argued that the trial court’s order violated the privacy rights of the mother, the father, and three half-siblings, thus departing from the essential requirements of law, causing irreparable injury, and leaving no adequate remedy on appeal.

The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) agreed with the mother, holding that although §39.01(50) expressly includes foster parents as “participants” in a dependency proceedings- giving them the right to receive notice and to be heard by the court without having to file a motion- foster parents are not authorized to see every record in a confidential, pending dependency case court file that may relate, for example, to the natural parents, or to siblings that are in other placements and are not in the care of the foster parents.

Because the trial court’s order did not exclude records of the parents, half-siblings not in the foster parents care, the order jeopardizes the constitutional and statutory rights of the parents and siblings to privacy and confidentiality. Art. I, § 23, Fla. Const., § 39.0132(3).

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