In re R.T., 2015 WL 1259666 (Fla. 2d DCA)

Mother petitioned the court for a writ of certiorari seeking to quash the trial court’s order requiring her three teenage sons to undergo therapeutic assessments in connection with the denial of Mother’s motion to amend a safety plan prohibiting Mother’s husband, S.K., from having contact with her sons. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) granted the petition and quashed the order.

The underlying dependency petition alleged that S.K. had previously sexually abused the 9-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend. At the time, Mother and her five children were living with S.K. Mother was pregnant with S.K.’s child.   The trial court adjudicated the children as to mother and issued a no contact order between S.K. and his step-children. Mother then gave birth to another child, R.K., who was adjudicated dependent as to both mother and her father, S.K.

Over the next three years, Mother completed her case plan and reunified with her children.   During this time, she gave birth to another child, B.K., who was not adjudicated dependent. Because S.K. had not completed his case plan and the no contact order remained in effect, S.K. moved out of the home. S.K. continued to work on his case plan and maintained unlimited supervised visitation with R.K. and unsupervised visitation with B.K. (because no petition was ever filed as to that child).

When S.K. completed his case plan, he filed a motion to reunify with R.K. and to have the no-contact order lifted as to his stepsons so he could move back in with Mother. The Department and the Guardian ad Litem opposed his requests alleging that the sexual offender treatment he completed was insufficient to address the underlying issues that brought the children into care.   Mother sought similar relief when S.K. was deemed to not have standing as to his stepsons. The trial court denied Mother’s motion and ordered sua sponte that the teenage sons undergo “therapeutic assessments . . . to determine their individual self-protective capacities.”

First, the Second DCA held that the order for therapeutic assessments denied Mother due process by issuing relief not requested in any of the proceeding pleadings and without providing Mother the opportunity to be heard. Second, the Second DCA, citing Florida Statute s. 39.603(1)(f) and 39.6012(1)(a), found that the order for therapeutic assessments did not relate in any manner to the issues that brought the boys into care and was not meaningfully designed to address the circumstances that brought them into care or the least intrusive means to protect them. The Second DCA noted the ages and gender of the children at issue and the successful discharge of S.K. and the boys from family counseling as important factors against the need for therapeutic assessments.

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