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 and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights was warranted and in the manifest best interests of the children involved. But held the application of the least restrictive means test precluded [the court] from terminating parental rights because “some limited opportunities existed for supervised or telephonic parental contact that posed no harm to the children, none offering any potential for reunification.”

The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision not to terminate parental rights.  The First DCA summarized the trial court’s findings as the following: “the trial court’s analysis is that despite clear and convincing evidence that the parental bond was beyond reunification and should be terminated, three recent cases . . . suggest that the availability of some highly constrained, sporadic, and closely supervised contact between child and parent automatically forestalls termination.” The First DCA reviewed three cases the trial court relied upon in its decision not to terminate parental rights ( G.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 145 So.3d 884 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014); A.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 144 So.3d 662 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014); C.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 164 So.3d 40 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015)).

The First DCA rejected the idea that “termination is impermissible under the least restrictive means test simply because some limited and highly restricted contact with a parent may pose no harm.”
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