E.Q. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 362540 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

A parent’s right to select an adoptive resource does not trump a determination as to what is in the child’s best interest.

Mother appealed an order denying her motion to transfer custody of the children to their paternal grandparents. The Third DCA affirmed the order.

The children were initially placed with pre-adoptive foster parents in January 2012. In November 2014, Mother filed a motion to transfer custody of the children from their foster home to the paternal grandparents. Mother was granted leave to intervene as an Adoptive Entity/Intermediary Party and to litigate the question of transfer.

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. Subsection (6)(e) delineates the following four factors for the court to consider when determining whether a transfer of custody meets the best interests of child:

(1) The right of the parent to determine an appropriate placement for the child;

(2) The permanency offered;

(3) The child’s bonding with any potential adoptive home that the child has been residing in; and

(4) The importance of maintaining sibling relationships if possible.

The Third DCA held that a parent’s right to select a prospective adoptive parent is not absolute and must be considered along with what is in the child’s best interest. Citing Guardian ad Litem Program v. R.A., 995 So. 2d 1083 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008), the Third DCA noted the standard for ordering a change in placement is whether the change is in the child’s best interest. The court is not obligated to place a child with a relative if placement with the relative is not in the child’s best interest.

In the instant case, the grandparents were in their 70s and the grandfather had health problems. The children had not had meaningful contact with the grandparents since prior to placement in 2012. The children were bonded to their foster parents and desired to remain with them.

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