ADOPTION INTERVENTION AND BEST INTEREST OF CHILD-Transfer of custody to prospective adoptive parents under the Adoption Intervention Statute requires a best interest analysis considering all factors enumerated in section 63.082(6)(e) of the Florida Statutes.

W.K. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2017); 42 Fla. L. Weekly
D1909, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D2043

The child was sheltered two months after birth and placed with foster parents. During
the pendency of a petition to terminate parental rights, the mother executed a
surrender and consent to adopt with Adoption by Shepherd Care (“ASC”), an adoption
agency. The father also surrendered his rights to the Department. ASC intervened in
the dependency case and filed a motion to transfer custody of the child to the
prospective adoptive parents chosen by the mother. The trial court granted the motion
to transfer custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents.

The foster parents and the guardian ad litem program (“GAL”) appealed the order
transferring custody of the child, arguing that is was in the child’s best interest to remain
in the custody of the foster parents and to be adopted by them. The Fourth DCA
dismissed the foster parents’ appeal for lack of standing and affirmed the order below,
finding that competent substantial evidence supported the trial court’s decision.

The DCA originally rendered an opinion that incorrectly held that parents possess a
fundamental right to choose the permanent adoptive placement for their children,
rather than only a statutory right to participate in permanent adoptive placement
proceedings per section 63.082(6)(e) of the Florida Statutes. In so holding, the Court
improperly placed greater weight on a parent’s choice than the other factors
enumerated in section 63.082(6)(e). However, based on the GAL’s Motion for
Rehearing, the Court substituted the original opinion and corrected the erroneous
language. In its substituted opinion, the DCA explained that under section 63.082(6)
(d) of the Florida Statutes, if a court determines that the prospective adoptive parents
are qualified to adopt the child and that the adoption is in the best interests of the child,
the court shall promptly order the transfer of custody of the minor child to the
prospective adoptive parents.[AJ1] The Court then discussed the factors in
determining the best interest as enumerated in section 63.082(6)(e) of the Florida
Statutes, and noted that the mother’s right to choose the adoptive family was but one of
the factors in the statute. Concluding that trial court’s findings were supported by
competent substantial evidence in the record, the DCA affirmed the trial court’s

Practice Tips: Florida Statute § 63.082(6) permits intervention in a dependency case
where parental rights have not been terminated and parents have executed a consent
for placement with qualified adoptive parents. In these cases, courts must not only ask
whether a parent’s chosen adoptive placement is appropriate, but also whether that
choice is actually in the best interest of the child.

The Florida Legislature revised section 63.082(6)(e) in 2016 to ensure all children
subject to that statute receive the same best interests’ consideration by the court as
any other child in the Chapter 39 dependency system. Subsection (6)(e) enumerates
the factors the court should consider when determining whether a transfer of custody
meets the best interests of child. All eight factors should be considered when relevant,
and no one factor should be given more weight than the others.

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