J.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 2014 WL 3559381 (Fla. 5th DCA)

The Department of Children and Families appealed denial of its petition for termination of parental rights.  The Fifth District Court of Appeal (Fifth DCA) affirmed the trial court’s decision but issued its opinion without prejudice, specifically granting the Department permission to refile for termination of parental rights if Father is sentenced to a significant prison sentence for his pending criminal charges.

The Fifth DCA noted that a significant prison sentence would require the trial court to determine whether termination of parental rights is the “least restrictive means to protect the child.”  The least restrictive means test is properly utilized when a lack of meaningful relationship between the parent and the child is caused by the parent’s criminal background.

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