Articles Posted in Abuse, neglect and abandonment

In family law matters involving minor children, the Florida courts’ driving concern is what is in the children’s best interest. As such, in cases in which the parents’ ability to care for their children in a safe and healthy environment is called into question, a court may find it necessary to appoint a guardian ad litem. Which party is responsible for paying for such guardians depends on numerous factors, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you have questions regarding how you can protect your parental rights, it is smart to meet with a Miami child custody attorney at your earliest convenience.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the mother and father, who have two minor children, divorced in Virginia in 2011. In 2020, the mother filed petitions for injunction for protection against domestic violence with children on behalf of the minor children. The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem for the children in the domestic violence cases and ordered the father to pay 100% of the Guardian’s fees. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the mother’s petitions but appointed the Guardian for further intervention.

In Florida, the courts may deem it necessary to terminate parental rights under specific circumstances outlined in the Florida Statutes. Termination of parental rights is a serious legal action and is considered when it is determined to be in the best interest of the child due to factors that jeopardize the child’s well-being and safety. While generally, the Divison of Children and Families brings actions to terminate parental rights, parents can file termination actions as well, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you need help with a dispute over child custody, it is advisable to confer with a Miami child custody attorney promptly.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the child was born in 2011 to the mother and Father, Venezuelan citizens whose relationship ended before her birth. A Venezuelan court approved a custody arrangement, but in July 2012, the mother brought the child to Miami, prompting the Father to file a Hague Convention petition for the child’s return to Venezuela. The court granted the Father’s petition, and the child returned to Venezuela.

Reportedly,  after the Father’s relocation to the U.S., a second Hague Convention case was initiated by the mother, but the court denied her petition. In 2013, the Father filed a petition for termination of the mother’s parental rights. The court issued a final judgment terminating the mother’s parental rights based on statutory grounds, including abandonment, conduct threatening the child’s well-being, egregious conduct, and conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent. The mother timely appealed. Continue reading ›

One of the fundamental elements of litigation is the right to question your opponents and their witnesses. The right is not absolute, though, as demonstrated in a recent child custody case in which the courts protected a child witness from being deposed. If you are concerned about protecting your parental rights, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Miami child custody attorney.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father began living together over a decade ago. The mother had a daughter from a previous relationship, and the mother and father later had a daughter together. In 2019, the mother’s older daughter advised a mental health coordinator at her school that the father had sexually abused her and that her parents were aware of the abuse. She was interviewed multiple times, and her testimony was the same each time.

Allegedly, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed an action to terminate the mother’s and father’s parental rights to both children. During the trial, the oldest daughter testified regarding the abuse but recanted her earlier statements that both parents were aware of the abuse. The father moved to disqualify the judge and for a new trial, and his motion was granted, and a new trial was ordered. Continue reading ›

The Florida courts generally aim to preserve the relationship between parents and their children. A court’s primary interest in any action involving a child, however, is what is in the child’s best interest. As such, if a court determines that terminating a parent’s rights will benefit a child, that decision will typically be upheld on appeal. Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed the standard of review appellate courts employ when assessing whether a trial court properly terminated a parent’s rights in a case in which it ultimately upheld the trial court’s decision. If you have questions regarding custody of your child, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Miami child custody lawyer regarding your options.

Procedural History of the Case

The grounds for the action to terminate the mother’s parental rights were not provided. It is reported, however, that proceedings were instituted to terminate the mother’s parental rights with regard to her three minor children. Multiple evidentiary hearings were held, during which the mother produced medical records and witness testimony in support of her assertion that her rights should be preserved. The trial court did not find the mother’s arguments to be persuasive and issued a final judgment terminating her parental rights. The mother appealed.

Appellate Review of Decisions Terminating Parental Rights

On appeal, the court focused on the standard of review employed when evaluating whether a trial court properly terminated a party’s parental rights. Specifically, the appellate court noted that its function was not to re-evaluate evidence presented at trial and substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. Continue reading ›

Parents typically want the best for their children and aim to raise them in a loving and stable environment, but not all parents possess the ability to properly care for their children. As such, in some instances, the courts will make the difficult decision to terminate parental rights. In some cases, the court will legally sever the parent-child relationship despite the fact that the parent is making strides towards improvement. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the trial court’s order in which it terminated a mother’s parental rights, despite evidence the mother had made marked progress. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is critical to retain a seasoned Florida child custody attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the Florida Department of Children and Families instituted an action to terminate the mother’s parental rights with regard to her two minor children. The court developed a case plan that the mother was required to adhere to in order to maintain her parental rights. The mother failed to adhere to the plan, and the court issued a final order terminating her rights. The mother then appealed.

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Florida

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling after reviewing the facts of the case. In its brief opinion, the appellate court noted that the mother initially neglected to comply with the case plan, but testimony indicated that she recently began to make progress. The appellate court explained, however, that there was nonetheless substantial evidence that supported the trial court’s determination that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of her children. Continue reading ›

Some people may have the idea that attorneys just want to pursue the course of action that will lead to the largest legal fee. The reality is that the vast majority of experienced South Florida family law attorneys are focused primarily on something else – which is the best interests of our clients and clients’ families. Rarely does this involve engaging in a “scorched earth” kind of hostile, contentious legal battle. Generally, that type of extremely hostile family law litigation is driven by the client, not the lawyer.

However, even those spouses and parents who engage in “behaving badly” through the legal system are entitled to certain rights and protections. This includes things like being forced to undergo a mental health examination on an involuntary basis.

So, what do you do if your ex-spouse or the other parent of your children wants the court to make you undergo a mental health exam even though you oppose doing so? A recent case from the Florida panhandle offers some useful information about how to respond.

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A recent 4th District Court of Appeal ruling clarified the proper factors for determining if a parent has sufficiently abandoned his child to allow the courts to terminate his parental rights and gave a pair of grandparents’ effort to adopt their grandchild new life. The appeals court’s ruling explained that, in order to terminate a parent’s legal rights to his child, the law requires proof that the parent showed an intent to reject his parental obligations, but it does not necessarily require evidence that the parent willfully disregarded the child’s safety.

S. fathered a child in 2002. In 2010, the child’s mother died. The mother’s parents then went to court seeking to adopt the child. As part of that process, they also asked the court to terminate the father’s parental rights. As part of their termination request, the grandparents argued that the father had abandoned the child, both financially and emotionally.

The trial court held a hearing. At the hearing’s conclusion, the judge ruled that the grandparents had proven that the father indeed had financially and emotionally abandoned his child. Nevertheless, the judge refused to terminate the father’s rights and denied the grandparents’ adoption petition. So, what went wrong? According to the trial court, the law also required the grandparents to prove that the father “willfully disregarded” the child’s safety, and they did not offer evidence on this point.
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A 23-year-old mother was recently charged with one count of child neglect after her 11-month-old son was found alone in a Miami motel room. According to police, the mother left her infant unattended in a playpen for several hours in a room at the motel on May 13th. A motel employee reportedly notified police the child was left alone after the employee entered the room to clean it. The child’s mother allegedly returned to the motel room more than two hours after authorities arrived. The mother reportedly told officers she left the child in the room because it was raining and she did not want him to get wet. Following the incident, she was taken into custody and later released on a $5,000 bond.

Last week, a Miami-Dade family court judge awarded temporary supervised custody of the baby to the woman’s parents. Judge Jeri Cohen expressed concern over awarding custody to the couple, however, as the woman’s father reportedly has a criminal record that includes a DUI manslaughter arrest. A follow-up court date during which Judge Cohen will make a long-term custody decision is scheduled for later this week. The mother has reportedly lost custody of all of her children, including one who was previously adopted by her parents. Judge Cohen ordered the mother, who is currently pregnant with her fourth child, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet. She also issued an order that stated the child’s grandparents must wear alcohol monitoring bracelets while the baby is in their custody.

Although it is unclear where the infant’s father is in this case, the custody of a couple’s child is always an especially emotional subject. Most parents worry about who will be tasked with caring for their children after a separation or divorce. In the State of Florida, a parent who would like to modify a child custody order must demonstrate that one of the parent’s circumstances has substantially changed. Additionally, the best interests of a couple’s child must also justify any requested change in custody. A family court judge will examine a number of factors following a request to modify custody. The factors include a parent’s fitness to raise the child, the child’s age, which parent is primarily responsible for the child’s upbringing, and the child’s own preference. Other relevant factors include allegations of child neglect, child abuse, or child abandonment, the moral fitness of the parents, and any evidence of sexual violence.
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Yesterday, a judge in Miami-Dade’s Family Court lifted an emergency protection order that forbade a 22-year-old father from seeing his 3-year-old daughter. The father is currently engaged in a custody battle with the child’s mother, a Venezuelan national who reportedly accused him of kidnapping their daughter in March 2011. She allegedly filed a missing persons report on the child before returning to Venezuela to give birth to another baby. It is currently unclear whether she ever intends to return to the United States.

In February, the father was reportedly arrested in Pensacola and returned to Miami-Dade on interfering with child custody charges. He was released from jail on Wednesday. His mother was also reportedly arrested for interfering with child custody after she brought the child to court last month in order to demonstrate she was not missing and was being well cared for. Last Monday, a Miami-Dade judge dismissed both interfering with custody charges.

According to the man’s mother, she and her husband had custody of the child at the time the child’s mother reported her missing. The child’s mother allegedly accused the child’s father of child abuse, child neglect, and domestic violence as well as kidnapping. A home study of the grandmother’s residence reportedly revealed no environmental hazards, no evidence of abuse, and stated the child was happy. Following the home study, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman granted temporary custody of the child to the grandparents. Permanent custody of the child will not be resolved until the child’s mother returns from Venezuela.

To many parents, the question of who will retain custody of your children following a separation or divorce is an emotional one. Since October 2008, child custody arrangements in Florida have been referred to as time-sharing schedules. A time-sharing agreement generally outlines the amount of time a child will spend with each parent, including overnights, weekends, school breaks, and holidays. If parents cannot come to an agreement regarding a time-sharing plan, one will be ordered by a family court. A Florida family court will normally examine the moral fitness of the parents, any evidence of abuse, and a variety of other statutory factors when creating a time-sharing schedule. Because a Florida parent who wishes to modify a time-sharing plan must show substantially changed circumstances, modifying a time-sharing plan can be difficult. If you are a Florida parent who would like to establish or modify your child’s time-sharing plan, it is a good idea to contact a skilled family law lawyer to assist you.
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A Titusville father and his girlfriend are being held without bail in Brevard County after authorities reportedly removed a 12-year-old boy who was allegedly starved and locked in a small closet in their home. The son of the 38-year-old father was reportedly taken to a local hospital where he was treated for dehydration and malnourishment after police went to the home to investigate a child abuse report. The father and his girlfriend were both reportedly arrested by police and charged with three counts each of aggravated child abuse and child neglect. During an emergency custody hearing, the boy, his 10-year old sister, and the girlfriend’s 15-year-old son were reportedly placed in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families by Brevard County Judge Tonya Rainwater.

The couple is accused of allegedly starving the boy and locking him up as punishment for stealing food. According to police, the 12-year-old weighed only 40 pounds when he was removed from the home. The child was allegedly locked in a closet, locked in a bathroom, or strapped to a bed repeatedly over the course of the preceding year. The other two children taken from the home were also examined by physicians.

The father was reportedly investigated in 2010 for child neglect. After the allegations were investigated, the boy was allegedly taken out of the Brevard Public School system. Until this month, there was no further contact between the household and child welfare officials. Although the children are under the supervision of the Florida Department of Children and Families, they are currently being cared for by a grandparent. State officials are also attempting to locate the 12-year-old’s mother. They have reportedly located and are communicating with the father of the girlfriend’s son. The father of the 12-year-old reportedly has another child living with an ex-wife in Ohio whom he has not seen in approximately 14 years.

Few subjects are more emotional to parents than who will care for your children after a divorce or other separation. In the State of Florida, a parent who seeks to modify a child custody order has a responsibility to demonstrate substantially changed circumstances and the child’s best interests must justify any change. A family court will examine a parent’s fitness to raise the child, the parent primarily responsible for the child’s upbringing, the child’s age, and the child’s preference when considering a request to change a custody arrangement. Other factors such as the moral fitness of the parents, any evidence of sexual violence, child neglect, child abuse, or child abandonment, and various other statutory factors will also be examined.
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