B.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 189 So.3d 305 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

Mother appealed the trial court’s Order Relinquishing Jurisdiction of this Court as to the Child. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings.

Mother had custody of the child pursuant to a Domestic Relations case and Father resided in Texas. Their child was placed in shelter after a domestic violence incident between Mother and her boyfriend.   At the shelter hearing, the child was placed with Father in Texas. Mother’s counsel raised the issue of lack of ICPC compliance at the Dependency Petition hearing. The Department had not performed an ICPC home study on Father’s residence prior to placement. The Department and the GAL argued that the child had been placed with Father by virtue of the shelter order and the only way to maintain such placement, citing ICPC Regulation: AAICPC Regulation No. 2(3)(a), was to relinquish jurisdiction of the child.   The trial court agreed with the later argument and dismissed the case.

The Fourth DCA found that the trial court erred in several respects. First, a shelter placement is by definition temporary and cannot be used to abrogate Mother’s award of custody in the Domestic Relations matter. Second, ICPC cannot be avoided simply by relinquishing jurisdiction. The Fourth DCA held that the Department was required to comply with ICPC because Father was the non-custodial parent as ordered by the Domestic Relations Court. Although the ICPC regulations arguably allow a state to “skirt the ICPC requirements in some circumstance,” the regulation was not adopted into law by the State of Florida. Relinquishing jurisdiction and not following through with the ICPC home study both deprived Mother of her due process rights and could have placed the child into an unsafe home.

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