Florida Supreme Court accepts ineffective assistance of counsel case

This is huge. The Florida Supreme Court has granted review in the case of a mother who lost her parental rights at a trial which began with her defense attorney informing the court that he was not prepared to go forward. Oral argument will be February 3, 2015. Briefs are due November 20 and 25. No continuances. The […]

Defense attorney starts opening argument with “I’m tired and not prepared to do this trial,” courts still uphold TPR

Let’s say you’re a parent facing termination of your parental rights in Florida. The following cumulative acts by your attorney would not be considered ineffective assistance of counsel: filing an untimely motion for a continuance to investigate prospective fathers; [actually the sin here was probably assuming that a judge would grant an unopposed motion for […]

Did DCF really try to TPR a woman for seeking custody of her child?

The First DCA reversed a TPR out of Duval County this week. The posture of the case is important: In May 2011, DCF took the then two-year-old child into protective custody and placed him in foster care. In July 2011, the trial court adjudicated the child dependent. In April 2012, the trial court created a […]

Incarcerated parents and the child welfare system

The Second and the Fifth courts of appeal recently issued opinions involving incarcerated parents. In the Fifth’s case, a child was adjudicated dependent and the disposition order forbade any contact between the incarcerated father and the child. In the Second’s case, a mother petitioned to terminate the rights of an incarcerated father. In both cases, the courts […]

Third DCA to DCF: Not every injury requires state intervention

This post continues a look at legal doctrines, as opposed to pure administrative incompetence, that limit the State’s ability to intervene in families’ lives due to suspected abuse, abandonment or neglect. Thus far, since the publication of Innocent’s Lost by the Miami Herald, we have seen the Second DCA (Lakeland) refuse application of the Imminent Risk […]

Michigan Supreme Court Rules One-Parent Doctrine Unconstitutional

Take note Florida: The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that removing a child from an uncharged parent is unconstitutional. We accordingly hold that due process requires a specific adjudication of a parent’s unfitness before the state can infringe the constitutionally protected parent-child relationship. In doing so, we announce no new constitutional right. Rather, we affirm that an […]

Florida Fifth DCA Approves Second-Parent Adoptions

In a long-awaited opinion, the Fifth District Court of Appeal (Daytona) last week held that second-parent adoptions, the adoption of a child by a gay parent’s partner, is within the jurisdiction of the courts and cannot later be challenged by the parents. The case–In re Adoption of D.P.P.–involves an unmarried lesbian couple who conceived with an […]

Second DCA rules against DCF on imminent risk of harm. Was DCF being strategic at the expense of future cases?

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there. —Anton Chekhov Let’s continue our look at legal […]

Watch the pros argue nexus: is proof of harm required where the father kills the mother?

In this oral argument, Mr. Colbert shows that it is possible to argue under Florida law that even the murder of the child’s mother is insufficient to establish a nexus of harm to the children. Based on the court’s questions, this is probably not true much longer in the Third DCA. The OA also contains […]