Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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B.R.C.M., an unaccompanied minor from Guatemala, illegally entered the United States at age thirteen and was released to his godmother as a sponsor. Thereafter, a private petition was filed on behalf of B.R.C.M. alleging three grounds for adjudication of dependency under Fla. Stat. 39.01(15). The circuit court denied the petition after a hearing during which the court made no factual findings. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the summary denial of the petition, concluding that B.R.C.M. was not entitled to the protections of Chapter 39 because he was not “truly” abandoned, abused, or neglected and because his petition was filed for the sole purpose of seeking an immigration status. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District, holding that B.R.C.M.’s private petition for dependency warranted individualized consideration and adjudication rather than summary denial. Remanded. View "B.R.C.M. v. Florida Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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Before their marriage, the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement providing that, upon dissolution, each party would retain his or her premarital assets and any appreciation of those assets. Following a twenty-three-year marriage, Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage. The property dispute in this case resulted from the trial court’s equitable distribution of two pieces of residential real property. In its amended final judgment the trial court concluded that these properties were marital assets. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s determination as to one property but concluded that the trial court erred in finding that Wife had an interest in the other property by virtue of an interspousal gift. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the Fourth District’s decision and reinstated the trial court’s amended final judgment, holding (1) the appropriate standard of review is competent, substantial evidence, and in this case, the Fourth District improperly reweighed the evidence under a preponderance of the evidence standard; and (2) the record contains competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court’s findings that both properties at issue were marital and therefore subject to equitable distribution. View "Hooker v. Hooker" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father were divorced in Colorado. After Father died, Mother and her two minor children moved to Florida. Grandparents subsequently initiated a proceeding in Colorado seeking visitation with the children. Mother filed a separate action in Florida to register the Colorado judgment dissolving her marriage and for a judicial determination that Grandparents had no legal right to timesharing with her children. Colorado then issued a judgment awarding Grandparents visitation with the children (the Colorado order). Thereafter, the Florida court entered a final order registering and domesticating the Colorado order. Mother appealed, arguing that the Colorado order was unenforceable as a matter of Florida law and public policy because it violated “childrearing autonomy.” The court of appeal concluded that the Colorado order was entitled to full faith and credit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Florida was required to enforce the Colorado order despite the fact that entry of a similar judgment by a Florida court under the circumstances presented here would be prohibited by the Florida Constitution. View "Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs" on Justia Law

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Two and a half months before Child’s eighteenth birthday, a private petition for an adjudication of dependency under Fla. Stat. 39.01(15)(a) and (e) was filed on Child’s behalf. The trial court denied the petition, ruling that Child did not qualify as defendant under section 39.01. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. Child appealed, arguing that the Fourth District failed to acknowledge section 39.01(15)(e) as a separate basis for a finding of child dependency. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that the issue of whether Child was a dependent child under section 39.01(15)(e) was moot because Child reached majority age in 2015 and could not now be adjudicated a dependent child under Florida law. View "O.I.C.L. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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The Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother to her three children. Although Mother conceded that grounds for termination of parental rights had been met, she challenged whether termination was the least restrictive means of protecting the children from harm. The court terminated Mother’s parental rights, concluding that DCF had proven grounds for termination as well as that termination was in the manifest best interest of the children. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the least restrictive means prong enunciated in Padgett v. Dep’t of Heath & Rehab. Servs. does not require the trial court to consider a permanent guardianship, instead of adoption, after the grounds for termination have been established and it has been determined that reunification with the parent would be harmful to the child; and (2) to the extent C.D. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families could be read as prohibiting termination of parental rights if there is any emotional bond between the parent and child and there is another permanency option that would protect the child from harm, the Court disapproves the decision. View "S.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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After Father and Mother were assigned case plans by the Department of Children & Families (DCF) regarding their two children, the children were reunified with Mother. The trial court then terminated supervision by DCF and issued an order limiting the ability of Father to seek future visitation to the discretion of the children. Father sought review, alleging that the trial court denied him due process by terminating DCF supervision without a motion and departed from the essential requirements of the law when it limited his future contact with his children to the sole discretion of the children. The Third District granted Father’s second claim and quashed the trial court’s order to the extent that it limited Father’s contact with the children to the children’s sole discretion. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a post-dependency order that is subject to future modification for purposes of child welfare and parental visitation is reviewable as a final order by appeal, as an interlocutory order reviewable by appeal, or as a non-final order reviewable by certiorari. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision below, holding that a post-dependency order that is subject to future modification for purposes of child welfare and parental visitation is a non-final order reviewable by certiorari. View "M.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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During a dissolution of marriage proceeding, Wife filed a motion for contempt for Husband’s failure to deliver one of the couple’s dogs into her custody. The trial court issued an order directing Husband to appear. Husband did not appear for the hearing on the motion for contempt. The trial court held Husband in civil contempt for failing to transfer the dog and ordered him to comply with the order. Husband still did not transfer the dog, and another motion for contempt was filed. Husband was not present at a subsequent hearing on the motion. The trial court held Respondent in civil contempt for failing to appear and also held him in criminal contempt. During the appeal of the criminal contempt order, the State recommended that the failure to appear in court be treated as indirect, rather than direct, criminal attempt. The Court of Appeal concluded that direct criminal contempt applied but reversed the conviction based on insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s decision to the extent that it reversed the conviction but held that direct criminal contempt did not apply to this case because when a failure to appear results in criminal contempt proceedings, a charge of indirect criminal contempt is applicable. View "State v. de la Portilla" on Justia Law

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Two women, DMT and TMH, agreed to jointly conceive and raise a child together. The child was conceived through the use of assisted reproductive technology. TMH provided the egg, and DMT gave birth to the child. The couple participated in raising their child together until their relationship ended and DMT absconded with the child. TMH sought to establish her parental rights to the child and to reassume parental responsibilities. The court of appeal concluded that Florida's assisted reproductive technology statute was unconstitutional as applied to TMH because it automatically deprived TMH of her ability to assert her fundamental right to be a parent. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that, based on the circumstances of this case, the statute was unconstitutional as applied to abridge TMH's fundamental right to be a parent and violated state and federal equal protection by denying same-sex couples the statutory protection against the automatic relinquishment of parental rights that it affords to heterosexual unmarried couples seeking to utilize the assistance of reproductive technology. Remanded. View "D.M.T. v. T.M.H." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of several crimes, including the kidnapping of his eleven-year-old son. At issue was whether a parent could lawfully be convicted of kidnapping his own child under section 787.01, Florida Statutes. The court held that the plain language of section 787.01 did not preclude a parent from being held criminally liable for kidnapping his or her own child.