for writ of certiorari to the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth
Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Carolyn Bell, Judge;
L.T. Case No. 50-2016-DP-000392 JK.
P. Ryan, Regional Counsel, and Richard G. Bartmon, Assistant
Regional Counsel, Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil
Regional Counsel, West Palm Beach, for petitioner.
Feigenbaum of Childrens Legal Service, West Palm Beach, for
F. Moore, Statewide Director of Appeals, and Laura J. Lee,
Senior Attorney, Tallahassee, for Florida Statewide Guardian
Ad Litem Program.
mother petitions for a writ of certiorari to quash a case
plan order that requires her to submit to a parental fitness
evaluation ("PFE"). She argues the trial court
departed from the essential requirements of the law because
the evidence does not establish the mothers mental health
was in controversy. We disagree and deny the petition.
Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.250(b) provides:
At any time after the filing of a shelter, dependency, or
termination of parental rights petition, or after an
adjudication of dependency or a finding of dependency when
adjudication is withheld, when the mental or physical
condition ... of a parent, ...who has custody or is
requesting custody of a child is in controversy, any party
may request the court to order the person to submit to a
physical or mental examination or a substance abuse
evaluation or assessment by a qualified professional. The
order may be made only on good cause shown and after notice
to the person to be examined and to all parties and shall
specify the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the
examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be
made. The person whose examination is sought may, after
receiving notice of the request for an examination, request a
hearing seeking to quash the request. The court may, on its
own motion, order a parent, legal custodian, or other person
who has custody or is requesting custody to undergo such
evaluation, treatment, or counseling activities as authorized
rule implements section 39.407(15), Florida Statutes (2018),
which authorizes a mental examination upon a showing of good
cause when the parents mental condition is in controversy.
hearing testimony and reviewing the record, the circuit court
found the mothers mental condition was in controversy. It
based its conclusion in part on the 2016 dependency
adjudication order. That order reflected the mother had been
referred to services to help her resolve "some issues
regarding depression," and the mother had asked the
Department to take custody of her children "because she
could not provide for them physically or mentally."
circuit court also relied on evidence which showed that two
years later, after the mother was reunited with her children,
she lost her housing and advised she could not keep her
children together with her in shelter due to one childs
behavioral problems. This resulted in the children being
returned and placed in foster care.
circuit court noted the mother had enrolled the children in
school and located a therapist without assistance, but found
that when overwhelmed, she returned the children to licensed
care. The court reasoned that:
Without a parental fitness evaluation, any new case plan
would have essentially the same tasks as the first
reunification case plan. The [m]other completed those tasks,
but they were not enough. It would be highly detrimental to
the children for the [m]other to engage in ...