Florida Custody Law: What Makes a Home Unfit For Children?

Home Unfit for Chlildren

Florida Custody Law: What Makes a Home Unfit For Children?

What Makes a Home Unfit For Children?

Unfortunately, we receive a lot of calls regarding a family’s concern about the children of one of their family members. The family member-parent may have issues with substance abuse, mental stability, etc. So, what makes a home unfit for children?

The Florida Family Courts make the determination that the parent is unfit or unable to care for the child by making a factual determination as to whether the parent’s custody would be detrimental to the child’s welfare, or (of course) whether the parent has voluntarily relinquished his or her rights to custody of the child (In re Marriage of Matzen, 600 So. 2d 487, 487 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992) ; Rumph v. Interest of V.D., 667 So. 2d 998, 998 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996)).  Well, we have a pretty good idea what could be considered a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, so what is behavior that the courts could consider to be so “detrimental” to the welfare of the children that it may warrant the removal of the children from their parent’s home?

What level of “detriment” are we talking about here? Well, of course, this is where the legal waters become a bit more murky.  Under Florida case law, “detriment” appears to refer to circumstances that produce or are likely to produce lasting mental, physical, or emotional harm (In re Marriage of Matzen, 600 So. 2d 487, 490 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992)). A few examples include a mentally challenged mother and whose children lived in “squalid” conditions (In the Interest of B.B., 559 So. 2d 1277, 1278 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990)), and when a child lived with foster parents for over thirteen years while the natural father was in jail  and therefore, completely not physically available to meet the needs of the child (Simmons v. Pinkney, 587 So. 2d 522, 524 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991).

As is the case in most aspects of the law, the circumstances are really taken on a “case by case” basis. If you have any questions regarding the fitness of a family member to take care of their children, or you are facing a challenge by the Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), feel free to give us a call for a free telephone consultation. 

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