Trial Court Order Remanded for Additional Findings

L.J. a/k/a/ M.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 2605106 (Fla 5th DCA)

The trial court entered a final judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to his child, A.J., on the basis that father had rights to two other children terminated. The trial court’s order included findings as to each statutory factor under section 39.806(1), discussed A.J.’s manifest best interests, and explained that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting A.J. from harm. Father appealed the order, raising only the argument that the trial court improperly failed to include a finding that reunification posed a substantial risk of harm to A.J.

The Fifth DCA affirmed the trial court’s finding that the evidence warranted termination of father’s parental rights but remanded for the trial court to include findings concerning whether reunification posed a substantial risk of harm to the child. The Court explained that although section 39.806(1)(i) of the Florida Statutes provides that a trial court may terminate parental rights where the parental rights of the parent to a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated, in order to pass constitutional muster, the Department must also establish that reunification would be a substantial risk to the child and that termination is the least restrictive way to protect the child.

Practice Tip: The trial court must make specific findings addressing all relevant factors necessary for termination of parental rights. Failure to do so, requires remand for a proper order and necessarily delays permanency for the child.

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