In re K.B.L.V., 176 So. 3d 279 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

K.B.L.V. appealed dismissal of his private petition for dependency based upon abandonment. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) affirmed.

K.B.L.V. was seventeen years old when he filed a private petition for dependency. At the time, he was living with his mother in Florida. It was undisputed that his father abandoned him in Honduras. His father never exercised his parental rights, established a relationship or provided support. In September 2013, K.B.L.V. moved to the United States and reunited with his mother. A finding of dependency would allow K.B.L.V. to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and ultimately apply for lawful permanent residency.

The trial court found that Father’s abandonment (in 2003) was too remote in time and that K.B.L.V was living with his mother, an appropriate caregiver. K.B.L.V. argued that there is no remoteness in time limitation to abandonment in the law and that failure to find him dependent would place him at risk of deportation and further abandonment and neglect.

The Third DCA focused its decision on the purpose of Florida’s dependency statutes. The purpose of Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes is ” . . . to ensure secure and safe custody . . . and to prevent the occurrence of child abuse, neglect and abandonment.” A dependent child is defined as a child that has “been abandoned abused or neglected by the child’s parent, parents or legal custodian” or a child who is “at substantial risk of imminent abuse, abandonment or neglect by the parent or parents or legal custodians.” § 39.01(15), Fla. Stat. (2014). Although there is nothing in the statue that limits abuse or neglect to a specific distance in time, case law support that incidents of abuse too remote in time without a continuing threat of harm, do not support a finding of dependency. In re K.V., 939 So. 2d 200, 202 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006); B.C. v. Dep’t of Children and Families, 846 So. 2d 1273, 1274 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).

K.B.L.V. was safe and secure in his mother’s care. There was no continuing risk of abuse or neglect by either parent. The only risk to K.B.L.V. was that of deportation, which is by itself is an “invalid basis upon which to qualify” for a finding of dependency.

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