Department of Children and Families v. T.W., 124 So.3d 411 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013)

The Department of Children and Families (department) appealed the trial court’s order reunifying the mother and her children based on unsworn statements made by the mother and the caseworker. The department argued that there was “no prior notice that reunification would be addressed, [the department] was not afforded an opportunity to present witnesses or otherwise prepare to address this issue, and no proper evidentiary hearing was held where witnesses were called to testify under oath.”

The Fifth District Court of Appeal (Fifth DCA) agreed, holding the lack of proper notice and the trial court’s failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing deprived the department of its due process rights. The trial court’s order departed from the essential requirements of the law and caused irreparable harm that could not be remedied on appeal.

The Fifth DCA quashed the trial court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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