final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 13-16176, Jason E. Dimitris, Judge.
Grossbard, for appellant.
Perkins, for appellee Department of Children and Families;
Thomasina F. Moore and Joanna Summers Brunell (Tallahassee),
for appellee Guardian ad Litem.
FERNANDEZ, HENDON, and LOBREE, JJ.
the father ("L.Q." or "the Father"),
appeals from a final judgment terminating his parental rights
to N.L., S.L., and A.L. (collectively, "the
Children") based on the statutory ground set forth in
section 39.806(1)(b), Florida Statutes (2018)-abandonment as
defined in section 39.01(1), Florida Statutes
(2018).Because the final judgment terminating the
Father's parental rights is supported by competent,
substantial evidence, we affirm.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
after N.L. was born in December 2013, he was sheltered by the
Department of Children and Families ("the
Department") and placed into foster care. The shelter
petition reflects that the father was unknown, but several
documents filed thereafter reflect that L.Q. was N.L.'s
prospective father. When N.L. was sheltered, the Mother was
seventeen years old and in foster care. Approximately two
months later, the Mother and N.L. were reunited and lived in
a group home until the Mother aged out of the foster care
system in October 2014. In September 2014, the trial court
entered an order prohibiting the Mother from having any type
of contact with L.Q. In January 2015, following the
Mother's completion of her case plan tasks, the trial
court dismissed the case against the Mother. The Mother and
L.Q. began to live together, and they had two other children
together, S.L, who was born in May 2015, and A.L., who was
born in September 2016.
January 2017, the Father and the Mother were involved in
domestic violence incident in the Children's
presence. As a result, the Father was arrested, and
after being released, the Father moved to Ohio.
February 9, 2017, the Department removed N.L. from the
Mother, and the following day, the Department filed a
dependency shelter petition based on the medical neglect of
N.L.'s eczema, which has been an ongoing problem. At that
point, N.L.'s eczema was all over his body, and he had
bloody wounds that were not covered, and N.L. was seen
scratching his wounds and shaking. Following a hearing, the
trial court entered a dependency shelter order as to N.L.,
and an order requiring L.Q. to submit to paternity testing.
Later that month, on February 18, 2017, S.L. and A.L. were
also sheltered and placed into foster care after the Mother
was evicted and could not provide S.L. and A.L. with a safe
place to reside. Thereafter, the trial court entered a
dependency shelter order as to S.L. and A.L. As of February
2017, the Father knew that the Children were in foster care.
March 2017, a dependency petition was filed as to the
Children, and thereafter, during a level of care assessment,
the Father acknowledged he was the father of the Children.
The Father was aware that he could not have any contact with
the Children until he presented himself before the trial
court and his paternity was established. Later that month,
the Children were adjudicated dependent, and case plans were
the Mother's completion of case plan tasks, the Children
were returned to the Mother on July 19, 2017, over the
Department's objection. It is undisputed that while the
Children were in foster care from February 2017 to July 2017,
the Father did not attempt to contact the Children, failed to
provide financial support for the Children, and failed to
present himself before the trial court.
knowing about the ongoing proceedings, the Father first
appeared before the trial court on September 6,
2017-approximately nine months after the Department removed
the Children from the Mother's care. At that time, the
Father acknowledged his paternity of the Children, waiving
DNA testing, and paternity orders were later entered nunc pro
tunc to September 6, 2017. The trial court appointed counsel
to the Father, granted the Father supervised visitations
twice a week, and ordered the Father to submit a financial
affidavit for the purpose of calculating his child ...