S.L. v. Department of Children & Families
Case No. 4D11-3844
The trial court rendered an order terminating a mother’s parental rights to her minor child, S.A. S.A., whose father was serving a long sentence of incarceration, was residing with his half-siblings (the mother’s other children) and their father. The Department had sought to terminate both of S.A.’s parents’ rights to him in order to give S.A. permanency. However, the Department had not moved to terminate the mother’s rights to her children that were living with their father. The mother, S.L., appealed, arguing that the trial court’s finding that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting S.A. was not supported by competent substantial evidence. Specifically, the mother argued that termination was not the least restrictive means where the trial court did not also terminate her parental rights to her other children. In support, the mother relied upon In re G.R., 793 So. 2d 988 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001).
In a written opinion, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) distinguished S.L.’s factual circumstances from those present in In re G.R. The Fourth DCA noted that the facts of S.L.’s case were completely different. Unlike the mother in In re G.R., S.L. had made no progress on her case plan, had not seen S.A. more than a year, and resided out of state. The Fourth DCA therefore affirmed, concluding that the trial court had correctly applied the least restrictive means test as to S.A. individually.