Contested reunification orders need findings too

In this case, the trial court made a finding only as to the parents’ compliance with the case plan. The court failed to address the other statutory factors [in 39.621(10)]. Moreover, there was no competent, substantial evidence to support a finding as to any of the factors because the Department was not on notice that reunification was a possible result of the hearing and no evidence regarding this issue was presented to the trial court. The lack of notice and the lack of an evidentiary hearing on reunification violated the Department’s right to due process.

Department of Children and Families v. W.H., — So.3d —-, 2013 WL 1316966 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013).

Well, this is a change. Normally it’s DCF springing permanent guardianships on un-noticed parents. It seems DCF doesn’t like it any more so when courts surprise them with reunification.

The First District makes no comment about the 39.522/39.621 standards conflict and directs that the 39.621(10) factors be considered. It has always seemed clear to me that 39.621(10) was meant to apply to situations in which the case had been closed in some manner other than reunification or adoption. But, the outcome is the same here: DCF gets a chance to respond, either proving endangerment under 39.522 or the best-interesty factors of 39.621(10).

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