final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Carlos
Lopez, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 19-15073
F. Zenobi, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel,
Third Region and Kevin Coyle Colbert, Assistant Regional
Counsel, for appellant.
Perkins, for appellee Department of Children and Families;
Thomasina F. Moore (Tallahassee); Craig Robert Lewis, for
appellee Guardian ad Litem Program.
SALTER, LOGUE and GORDO, JJ.
the Mother, appeals the trial court's order requiring her
to submit to a mental health evaluation following her consent
plea to an adjudication of dependency of her minor child. The
Department of Children and Families ("the
Department") filed a verified petition for dependency
containing allegations that the Mother acts dangerously in
ways that harm the Child, does not meet the Child's basic
needs, does not recognize or understand threats to children,
does not understand her protective role as a caregiver, has a
substance abuse problem and is unable to control her
Mother entered a consent plea to an adjudication of
dependency of the Child under sections 39.01(15)(a) and (f),
Florida Statutes (2018), based on the Mother's lack of
impulse control and substance abuse issues which place the
Child at risk of harm. The plea agreement contained
admissions that the Mother leaves the seven-year-old child
home alone for hours, drinks every night and takes the Child
with her to the homes of adult men where she then becomes
drunk. The Mother admitted that on one such occasion she fell
asleep with a man while other drunk men started to touch the
Child everywhere and the Child, frightened and scared, fled
the home alone after 11 p.m. to call her stepfather for help.
on the consent plea, the trial court adjudicated the Child
dependent and rendered a disposition order requiring the
Mother to submit to a mental health assessment and a
substance abuse assessment as part of her case
plan. The Mother argues the trial court
committed reversible error in requiring her to submit to a
mental health evaluation because her consent plea neither
admitted nor denied the allegations in the dependency
petition and the facts stipulated to by the plea did not
indicate a mental health issue, thus her mental condition was
not in controversy and no good cause was shown.
Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.250 and section
39.407(15), Florida Statutes (2018), where the Mother's
mental condition is in controversy and good cause is shown,
the trial court may order a mental health evaluation.
"The granting or denying of an order for a [mental
health] evaluation is a discretionary act." Bailey
v. Bailey, 176 So.3d 344, 346 (Fla. 4thDCA 2015)
(quoting Pariser v. Pariser, 601 So.2d 291, 292
(Fla. 4th DCA 1992)). We review such a ruling for abuse of
discretion as it can be overturned "only upon a
conclusion that no judge could reasonably have ordered such
an evaluation." Id. (quoting Gordon v.
Smith, 615 So.2d 843, 844 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993)).
with the requirements of rule 8.250 and section 39.407(15),
we find the record before us contains competent, substantial
evidence to support the trial court's order. We disagree
with the Mother's assertion that the facts only show a
need for a substance abuse assessment. The evidence of the
Mother's behavior toward the Child, including leaving the
Child home alone for hours even though she is not old enough
to care for herself and neglecting the Child at adult
men's homes, shows that even without drinking the Mother
was doing things that endangered the Child. Based on the
Mother's consent to the allegations in the dependency
petition and admission in the plea agreement that she lacks
impulse control in addition to having a substance abuse
problem that places the Child at risk of harm, the record
evidence supported the trial court's ruling. Accordingly,
we do not find that the trial court abused its discretion in
ordering the Mother to submit to a mental health assessment.