Florida Court: Adoption over Permanent Guardianship

Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently held that permanent guardianship with relatives is not part of the least restrictive means analysis and does not defeat a termination of parental rights petition in B.B. v. D.C.F. B.B.’s child was removed from him because of neglect and placed with the child’s grandparents. After a year passed and B.B. failed to comply with his Case Plan, DCF pursued a termination of parental rights (“TPR”) and the court granted the termination. On appeal, B.B. argued that his parental rights should not have been terminated because TPR was not the least restrictive means (“LRM”) of protecting the child because the child could have been placed in a permanent guardianship with the child’s grandparents. The 5th DCF affirmed previous findings that the fact that a long-term placement with a relative exists does not preclude TPR and that the LRM test only requires DCF to attempt to reunify the family by offering a Case Plan before seeking TPR.

This case is significant to potential adoptive parents because it clarifies the LRM test, a common defense at TPR trials. A clarification of the legal analysis regarding LRM is helpful to attorneys representing DCF, the parents and Guardian ad Litem as well as the trial Judges presiding over the TPR. This ultimately results in fewer appeals and permanency can be achieved much quicker for a child.

The opinion can be read at http://www.5dca.org/Opinions/Opin2009/062209/5D09-357.op.pdf
Note that the opinion is not final until 15 days after it was issued.

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