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S.L. v. DCF: How to beat an abandonment case

In 2012, the Florida Legislature decided that parents were not being TPR’d enough for abandoning their children, and so they tweaked the definition of abandonment to make it easier to bring a case. Instead of abandonment being defined as failing to maintain a relationship with your child and failing to support your child, it was weakened to failing to maintain a relationship or failing to support. The Peace Corps volunteer who sends letters every day but does not send money would be at risk of TPR. The Dickensian absent father who sends mysterious money but doesn’t sign the card “love pop” would equally be at risk.

S.L. v. DCF, out of the Fourth DCA, came down yesterday. It’s the first abandonment written opinion since the law change. And it’s as boring as can be. No showdown over ands versus ors. Just plain old haggling over how many visits are too few. In this case, the mother visited at least 26 times in one year, plus some telephone calls. She also brought the children clothing, shoes, snacks, food, money, and other gifts. That was enough to defeat an abandonment charge. She was not so lucky on her failure to comply with her case plan, however.

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