Court Discusses Grounds for Granting Shelter Petitions in Florida

In Florida, the courts may terminate parental rights if they believe a child faces a risk of harm if they remain in the parent’s custody. In some instances, however, the courts may find cause to terminate a parent’s rights even if a child is a newborn, as demonstrated recently in a Florida opinion. If you are at risk of losing your parental rights, it is smart to talk to a Miami child custody lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father, who already had two older children, had a third child. However, both older children were placed in out-of-home care due to an ongoing dependency case. The parents had a significant history with the relevant department concerning the well-being of their children. Specifically, the oldest child, when she was six months old, was removed from the parents’ care due to injuries, including a spiral arm fracture, bruising, and soft tissue damage. The parents denied causing these injuries, offering an explanation that medical professionals found implausible. As a result, the oldest child was deemed dependent. The parents’ second child was sheltered shortly after birth, and the parents agreed to the second child’s dependency status.

Allegedly, since being placed in out-of-home care, both older children have remained separated from their parents, as the parents have not fulfilled the necessary conditions for reunification. They are only allowed supervised visitation with their children. The dependency cases for the older children are still ongoing. When the third child was born, the department removed the child from the parents’ care and initiated proceedings to place the child in out-of-home care as well. However, the trial court denied the shelter petition for the third child, stating that although the parents had a history of involvement with the department, there was no imminent harm identified for the third child. The department appealed.

Grounds for Granting Shelter Petitions in Florida

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that an order denying a shelter petition signifies the conclusion of judicial involvement in the matter and, therefore, is subject to de novo review.

According to Florida Statutes, a child can be placed in shelter care if there is probable cause to believe that the child has been subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment or if there is an imminent danger of illness or injury due to such circumstances. The law requires a child to be brought before the trial court within twenty-four hours for a shelter hearing, where the Department must establish probable cause for removal and show that appropriate services cannot eliminate the need for placement.

In the subject case, the open dependency cases involving the parents’ older children provided probable cause that the third child was in imminent danger as a result of abuse. The parents had not met the conditions for reunification or the case plan tasks required for the return of their older children, which is why the dependency cases for them remain open. Therefore, the trial court’s denial of the shelter petition for the third child and its conclusions were erroneous, as determined by the plain language of the relevant statutes. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Consult an Experienced Miami Attorney

In any Florida case involving parental rights or the custody of minor children, the court’s only concern is what is in the best interest of the children. In some instances, the best interest standard will compel the courts to terminate a parent’s rights. If you are concerned that your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is crucial to retain the assistance of an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. Our office is located in Aventura, and we regularly help people protect their parental rights in custody cases in Miami. You can contact us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to schedule a meeting.