Department of Children and Families v. J.B., 154 So.3d 479 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

The Department of Children and Families (Department) appealed an order directing it to pay for travel costs of the pro bono Attorney ad Litem to assist in her client’s therapy at a North Carolina residential treatment facility. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) treated the appeal as a petition for writ of certiorari and quashed the order.

Based upon the recommendation of J.B.’s psychiatrist and upon the agreement of the Department and the Guardian ad Litem, the trial court approved placement of J.B. at a residential program in North Carolina. After the placement order was granted, the pro bono Attorney ad Litem filed a motion requesting that the Department be required to pay travel costs associated with visiting the child in order to maintain a meaningful attorney-client relationship. The trial court denied the Attorney ad Litem’s request but ordered the Department to pay for any visits by the Attorney ad Litem that are therapeutically recommended by the residential treatment program.

The Third DCA found that it is a violation of the separation of powers for a court to direct an executive department on how to expend funds of that department unless a statute of constitution authorizes a court to do so. The Third DCA quashed the trial court’s order requiring the Department to pay for the pro bono Attorney ad Litem’s travel costs.