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B.S. v. Department of Children and Families

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

April 25, 2018

B.S., Grandmother of P.S.A. and W.H.A., Minor Children, Appellant,
v.
Department of Children and Families, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County. Ross M. Goodman, Judge.

          Valarie Linnen, Atlantic Beach, for Appellant.

          Sarah J. Rumph, Appellate Counsel, Department of Children and Families, Tallahassee, for Appellee; Sara E. Goldfarb, Appellate Counsel, Guardian ad Litem Program, Sanford.

          WINOKUR, J.

         Appellant, B.S., appeals the circuit court's dismissal of her petition for adoption of her grandchildren, P.S.A. and W.H.A., as well as the circuit court's denial of her motion for rehearing. Because we find that an adoption following a termination of parental rights (TPR) is governed by the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, and because this appeal is untimely under those rules, we dismiss the appeal.

         I.

         In February 2014, the trial court[1] adjudicated P.S.A. and W.H.A. dependent. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) created a case plan with the goal of family reunification, but the parents failed to reunify with the children. As a result, a permanent guardianship was established with an aunt and uncle. The guardianship order expressly limited B.S. to supervised visitation.

         Two years later guardianship was revoked and both children were sheltered, due in part to B.S.'s unsupervised contact with the children. B.S.'s visitation rights were suspended. The trial court reinstated DCF's supervision two months later, incorporated a case plan goal of adoption, and reinstated B.S.'s supervised visitation. Upon DCF's petition, the court terminated both parents' parental rights in November 2016.

         A Unified Home Study advised against placing the children with B.S. Consequently, the trial court found that it was in the best interest of both children to remain in the custody of DCF.

         In December 2016, upon motion of the Guardian Ad Litem Program (GAL), the court suspended B.S.'s supervised visitation and ordered that the children remain in the custody of DCF for the purpose of adoption. B.S. did not seek appellate review of the order suspending her visitation.

         B.S. then filed a petition to adopt P.S.A. and W.H.A, and moved for reinstatement of her visitation rights. The trial court summarily denied the motion for reinstatement. On May 2, 2017, the trial court dismissed B.S.'s adoption petition, finding that the petition was simply a vehicle for B.S. to revisit the already-litigated issue of her visitation rights. On May 11, 2017, B.S. filed a motion for reconsideration and hearing. On May 25, 2017, the trial court denied the motion. On June 20, 2017, B.S. filed a notice of appeal.

         II.

         GAL argues that B.S.'s notice of appeal was untimely because it was not filed within thirty days of rendition of the May 2, 2017 order dismissing the adoption petition. B.S. argues that her motion for reconsideration tolled rendition until the court ...


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