E.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 147 So.3d 616 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014)

Mother appealed the dependency adjudication of her child, asserting the trial court’s order was not supported by competent substantial evidence. The Fourth DCA affirmed the trial court’s adjudication order.

Mother had a history of mental illness and domestic violence with father. Four years prior, mother had another child removed following allegations that mother said she was going to kill the child. Mother was involuntarily committed at that time. At the time of the adjudication trial for E.H., mother was homeless and living with father in a tent in the woods.

Citing E.M.A. v. Department of Children and Families , 795 So. 2d 183, 187 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001), the Fourth DCA found that “when a nexus is shown between the parent’s mental disorder and a significant danger to the child[ren], the trial court is not required simply to wait idly until the abuse . . . occurs before adjudicating dependency.” The Fourth DCA found that Mother’s failure to recognize she had a mood disorder and failure to participate in services raised the level of risk to her child.

With regard to the history of domestic violence, the Fourth DCA found a substantial risk of imminent abuse to the child due to the likelihood of the violence occurring. When there is a pattern of abuse and the parents’ relationship continues, prior incidents of domestic violence can support a finding of a present risk of harm. See R.M. v. Department of Children and Families, 886 So. 2d 329, 332 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004).
The Fourth DCA affirmed the trial court’s adjudication order.