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L.M. v. Dep't of Children & Families

Case Conclusion Date: 01.01.2006

Practice Area: Child abuse

Outcome: Lower court order affirmed (DCF prevailed)

Description: This was Florida's first published appellate opinion pertaining to dependency and a parent's competence to proceed. Here, the mother (who had been involuntarily committed during a portion of the proceedings) was represented by both an attorney and an attorney ad litem. She failed to appear for the dependency adjudicatory hearing, at which point, her counsel attempted to continue the matter; the lower court denied the motion to continue. DCF prevailed and the children were adjudicated dependent. The mother appealed, and the 4th DCA held that she had been provided due process by having counsel at every stage of the proceedings. Most important was the 4th DCA's determinations that the lower courts could not postpone cases indefinitely due to a parent's competency issues, as this would deprive a child of permanency and run counter to estabished provisions of law. The mother's due process rights must yield to the due process rights of her children.

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