In re S.A.R.D., 182 So.3d 897 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016)

S.A.R.D. appealed dismissal of his private petition for dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed, finding the record supported the trial court’s finding that S.A.R.D. was not abandoned, abused or neglected by his mother.
S.A.R.D. asserted in his petition that he was born in Honduras. He lived primarily with his mother and uncle after his father abandoned him when he was seven years old. After his uncle was murdered in 2012, he continued to live with his mother. Sometime after the murder, S.A.R.D. worked on a coffee farm to help financially meet his needs. In 2014, he left his mother and illegally entered the United States. After being brought to the attention of immigration, S.A.R.D. lived with family friends and was at no immediate risk of abuse, abandonment or neglect. He was nine days shy of his eighteenth birthday when the petition was filed.
S.A.R.D.’s petition for dependency asserted abandonment by his father and neglect by his mother. The Third DCA, following other recent cases, found that abandonment by his father over ten years earlier was too remote in time. As to neglect by his mother, the Third DCA noted the absence of any allegation that mother was willfully neglectful and had the ability to meet his needs, a component required in § 39.01(44). The Third DCA found that S.A.R.D.’s petition did not meet the prima facie threshold for a finding of dependency. As the other majority decisions similarly noted, the Third DCA concluded by stating “[t]he primary goal of the statute is to preserve the family structure, not to provide a gateway to citizenship for children who are entering this county illegally in search of a better life.”