In re G.M., 73 So.3d 320 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011)

The mother appealed the trial court’s order denying her motion for reunification and that terminated protective supervision with her child in the custody of his non-offending father. Both the mother and father’s case plan goal was reunification and the trial court had found the mother and father (who lived in another state) were in substantial compliance of their case plans. The child lived with the father since 2009. The Department of Children and Family Services filed a “motion for termination of supervision on June 14, 2011, arguing that the longevity and stability of the child’s placement with the Father no longer warranted protective supervision.” The mother filed a motion for reunification which was denied. The trial court’s order had the word “denied” handwritten on it.

The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed the trial court’s order. The Second DCA held the trial court failed to consider the factors in Section 39.621(10), Florida Statutes (2010) which states:

The court shall base its decision concerning any motion by a parent for reunification or increased contact with a child on the effect of the decision on the safety, well-being, and physical and emotional health of the child. Factors that must be considered and addressed in the findings of fact of the order on the motion must include:

(a) The compliance or noncompliance of the parent with the case plan;

(b) The circumstances which caused the child’s dependency and whether those circumstances have been resolved;

(c) The stability and longevity of the child’s placement;

(d) The preferences of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and understanding to express a preference;

(e) The recommendation of the current custodian; and

(f) The recommendation of the guardian ad litem, if one has been appointed.

Florida statute also requires that when a court considers whether a child should be reunited with a parent, it “shall determine whether the parent has substantially complied with the terms of the case plan to the extent that the safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child is not endangered by the return of the child to the home.” § 39.522(2) Fla. Stat. (2010). The trial court’s order denying the mother’s motion failed to consider any of the factors required by statute. The trial court also failed to consider all of the factors required in its order granting the department’s motion.

The Second DCA reversed the trial court’s orders.

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