Family Law Intersection: Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member, Paternity, Termination of Parental Rights and Relative Adoption Collide

By: Nancy Brodzki, Esq. and Ellen Kaplan, Esq

Family Law Intersection: Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member, Paternity, Termination of Parental Rights and Relative Adoption Collide

It sounds like a Board Certification Exam hypothetical. A Child is conceived by an unmarried Mother in Georgia. The twenty - something biological Father is not ready for fatherhood, suggests the Mother have an abortion if she’s not ready to raise the Child as a single parent, and declines to help the Mother unless and until a DNA test at birth proves him to be the Father. The Mother is supported by her parents throughout her pregnancy. The child is born in Georgia in May 2010. The biological father, who did not attend the birth, presents to the hospital solely to provide a DNA swab to confirm that the child is his. He does not act to place his name on the birth certificate or sign any voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, and when the DNA test confirms his paternity, he gives the Mother $100, and all but disappears from their lives for the next seven years. The Mother, who struggles with substance abuse, is in and out of the Child’s household with the Maternal Grandparents, living with them when she is clean and sober, not living with them when she wasn’t.

Four years pass, and the Grandparents and the Mother have all moved to Florida, albeit to different counties. The Child lives with the Grandparents in Broward County. The Mother lives in Duval County. The Grandparents, needing the legal status to enroll the Child in preschool and access medical care for the Child file for Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member in April 2014. The Mother consents. The attorney who filed the action on behalf of the Grandparents asks all the right questions as to the status of the biological Father of her clients. They “have a pretty good idea” who the Father is. The birth certificate is provided, showing only the Mother’s name. The Grandparents are unaware of any action regarding the Child in any other jurisdiction. The caption of the case lists the Father as “Unknown”. But in the Petition, they allege that the Father’s consent is not required because the Father had not “established paternity”. In the Order granting them Temporary Custody issued in May 2014, the Court included a finding that the Father had not established paternity and therefore his consent was not required. Unbeknownst to the Grandparents, during this same time period the Mother had applied for and received Medicaid and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (Food Stamps). She listed the Child as her dependent. She was required to name the Father of the Child in order to receive the benefits. As a result, the Florida Department of Revenue initiated an action for child support against the Father, locating him in Nevada. The Father admitted paternity. Child support was established, and the Order establishing that support and acknowledging him as the “legal father” [the words of the Nevada Court], granted him the right to have his name added to the Georgia birth certificate. It was entered just days after the Court in Broward County awarded the Grandparents Temporary Custody.

Two more years pass, and the Father had moved back to Georgia. He filed a Paternity action in Duval County, Florida, but he never served the Mother with the action because he could not locate her, and never progressed the case. He reached out to the Grandparents by email in a quest to be introduced to his Child. The Grandfather met with him in Georgia to discuss the matter and agreed. The Father relocated to South Florida, still about ninety minutes away from the Child. When the introduction finally happens, the Child is now 7 years old. Beginning in early 2018, the Father was seeing the Child more regularly, approximately 4-5 days per month, including overnights. He lived with his girlfriend and her children who were around the same age as the Father’s Child. She enjoyed these playdates at first. But the overwhelming evidence at trial indicated that she never developed a bond with the Father. She resisted his requests for her to call him Dad and became upset when the other children told her she was going to be coming to live with them and she would have a new last name. There were cultural and religious differences between the Father and the Child as well. The more he pushed, the more she withdrew. Until finally, after one particular evening, she wanted to call her Grandparents and go home during a visit, and he refused. When the Grandparents did pick up the child, she told them emphatically that she never wanted to see him again.

A few weeks before that final visit, the Grandparents contacted me. They were concerned about the direction things were going between the Father and the Child. He had become more “aggressive” in his demands. They needed to know their options. We discussed the likelihood that the Father would soon file a Paternity case in an attempt to gain custody of the child. We discussed the possibility of adoption. It was clear that the best defense to a paternity case in this situation was a Petition for Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights of both parents. I immediately wanted to consult with an adoption law specialist and called on Ellen Kaplan, Esq, Board Certified Adoption Attorney and Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproductive Attorneys. We had worked on opposite sides of a different adoption/dependency case several years prior and developed great respect for one another in the courtroom. Her guidance at this stage was critical. “The more time that passed, and the older the child was, the better our case” was her advice. We didn’t really know when the Father would file, and we didn’t know how quickly he would manage to find and serve the Mother, who had, by now, not been involved much for a few years, or serve the Grandparents.

The Grandfather was unhappy with his job, and they were strongly considering moving to Mississippi where they had family. The Grandmother was a certified teacher and could teach basically anywhere. They had never grown accustomed to the cultural divide between “The South” and “South Florida.” The Mother had years before moved to Texas. She was thrilled they would be closer so she could see her daughter more often. Their house sold very quickly, and they left for Mississippi. As it turned out, the Father filed a Petition for Determination of Paternity just a few weeks after the Grandparents moved away.

Once the Father’s attorney discovered the existence of the Temporary Custody case, the Father filed a Motion to Vacate the Order based on fraud, alleging that because he was not served notice of the action, and because he was listed as “Unknown” in the caption when they knew who he was, that the Grandparents had perpetrated a fraud upon the Court. That Motion was denied in April 2019. In September 2019, the Father amended his Paternity action, dropping the Grandparents as parties and perfected service on the Mother in the spring of 2020. The Mother filed a Motion to Dismiss on multiple bases, including that the Grandparents were indispensable parties and the failure of the Father to include them as parties in their Amended Petition required dismissal of the action, as well as a lack of good cause shown for not effectuating service of process within the time prescribed by Rule. The Circuit Judge held a six hour hearing on the Motion to Dismiss in late June, taking all kinds of testimony regarding the Father’s efforts to locate the Mother and Grandparents. The resulting Order denied the Motion to Dismiss, allowed the Father to amend to add the Grandparents as parties to the Paternity case, and appointed a Guardian ad Litem. The Father’s Motion to Intervene in the Temporary Custody case was granted, and the cases were consolidated. Before the Order from that June hearing was even issued by the Judge, I took the deposition of the Father. Through consultation with Ellen Kaplan, my inquiry of the Father was geared toward proving abandonment- either prenatally or postnatally and, either emotionally or financially- a ground necessary to terminate the Father’s parental rights under Chapter 63, Florida Statutes. This is one of the only cases in my career where a deposition would become the most compelling and probative evidence in a 6-day trial.

We took an appeal by way of a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition/Certiorari on the Order denying the Motion to Dismiss, which was eventually denied by the Fourth DCA in December 2020. In the interim, the Court had ordered video conferencing between Father and Child. But the Guardian soon determined that these calls were counter-productive and causing detriment to the Child. The Court then ordered “reunification therapy” which took place via zoom. In the fall of 2020, we were still in the grips of COVID with no vaccine available. The Child was in Mississippi, and the Father was in Broward County. The “reunification” failed to make any progress and was terminated.

An Answer to the Petition for Determination of Paternity was filed in January 2021 to the now amended Petition, and Ellen Kaplan drafted the Joint Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption by Relative on behalf of the Grandparents. The Father’s deposition was an exhibit to the Petition.

The Petition was filed, as required, as a separate action under Chapter 63, Florida Statutes, with its own case number, and served upon the Father. The attorney for the Father was irritated that we could not provide him the case number, advising that he had to get it directly from his client (who had by then been served with the Petition) due to the highly confidential nature of a chapter 63 termination of parental rights/adoption proceeding. Sadly, the Mother died just weeks after the Adoption case was filed.

The basis for the Petition for Termination of Parental Rights was, of course, abandonment. We alleged, and the Father’s deposition testimony confirmed, that the Father abandoned the Mother and her unborn child prenatally by admittedly refusing to provide any financial and/or emotional support to the Mother during her pregnancy and further, by abandoning the Mother and Child by failing to provide regular customary support on behalf of the child, failing to establish a relationship with his child, having admittedly only seen his Child on three brief occasions. The allegations were that his actions, for the first seven years of the child’s life, did not evince a settled purpose to parent, the standard by which these cases are judged.

The Father filed an Answer and many affirmative defenses, most of which were stricken when our Motion to Strike was heard by the Court. The Father alleged that as the sole surviving biological parent, his rights were superior to the grandparents. The Court appointed the Guardian ad Litem to the new case who then, in furtherance of the Best Interest of the Child issues inherent in any Adoption case, recommended a bonding assessment of the child with the Grandparents and with the Father, as well as an assessment to address the Father’s allegations that the Grandparents were actively alienating the Child from the Father. Trial was scheduled initially for 3 days in November. The bonding and alienation assessments were completed days before trial.

The first day of trial was taken up with numerous pretrial Motions, including the Father’s Motion for Summary Judgment, our Motion to Stay Proceedings in the Paternity and Temporary Custody cases pending Judgment in the TPR/ Adoption case, and competing Motions in Limine to preclude witnesses on both sides, and other procedural and evidentiary motions. Trial lasted 5 more days. At the close of our case in chief, the Father moved for Involuntary Dismissal, arguing that we had not proven our case by clear and convincing evidence, which is the burden of proof in a Termination of Parental Rights case. After thoughtful deliberation that stretched for several minutes, the Judge denied the Motion for Involuntary Dismissal, finding that the Grandparents presented a prima facie case of abandonment as outlined in the petition, and that we had met our burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence. He found that for the first seven years of the Child’s life, the Father made only nominal attempts to participate in her life. This ruling shifted the burden to the Respondent to disprove he abandoned the Child over the first seven years of her life or otherwise prove his claims of parental alienation, concealment and misrepresentations by the maternal Grandparents serve as a valid defense to his abandonment of the Child.


Rejecting soundly the contention by the Father that his child may not be placed for adoption absent his consent, Petitioners relied on two landmark Florida Supreme Court cases, to wit: In Re Matter of the Adoption of Doe, 543 So. 2d 741 (Fla. 1989) wherein the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the finding of pre-birth abandonment where the father’s efforts to support the pregnant mother were ‘marginal’ [having paid one month’s rent, providing some furniture and use of a microwave while the mother received assistance from other sources]. Finding that abandonment “turns on the question of whether the parent has evinced a settled purpose to assume parental duties”, the father’s failure to provide pre-birth assistance to the pregnant mother, when he was able and assistance was needed, removed from the father the privilege of vetoing the adoption by refusing to give consent. Adoption of Doe, 543 So. 2d at 749; and In Re Adoption of Baby E.A.W., 658 So. 2d 961 (Fla 1995) wherein the Florida Supreme Court, having examined the language of Florida statutory definition of abandonment under § 63.032(1) found, that in considering the ‘conduct’ of the father toward the child’s mother during pregnancy, that such conduct was not limited to a lack of financial support, but could be based on “a lack of emotional support and/or emotional abuse”, thus expanding abandonment to include not only lack of support of the child, but also lack of emotional support of the Child’s mother.

Notably, since Doe, our Florida Legislature, as well as the Florida courts, have broadened the protections afforded minor children and their adoptive parents, especially in the face of evidence that the father has abandoned the mother and child, placing the focus squarely on ‘the best interest of the child’, holding biological parents accountable for meeting the needs of their children. Heart of Adoptions v. J.A., 963 So. 2d 189, 195-196 (Fla. 2007) (Discussing the legislative intent and compelling state interests in providing stable and permanent homes for adoptive children); J.C.J. v. Heart of Adoptions, Inc., 989 So. 2d 32, 35-36 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2008) (Unmarried biological fathers are required to “demonstrate a full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood” by coming forward to participate in raising the child); See generally, In the Matter of the Appeal in Pima County Juvenile Severance Action, 876 P.2d 1121, 1131-32 (Ariz. 1994) (examining the Lehr principles and explaining that an unwed father must “do something, because conduct speaks louder than words or subjective intent…,” and even if the birth father takes steps to bond with the child and fails, “Lehr’s message is that to protect his interests, and the child’s wellbeing, he must do more. For in the child’s eyes, a valiant but failed attempt to create a relationship means little.” An unmarried biological father who does not demonstrate such commitment through his actions has abandoned the child, and his opinion of “where the child’s best interests lie” is rendered irrelevant. See Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 261-263 (1983) (The US Supreme Court, as well as Florida courts, recognized that an unmarried biological father’s liberty interest in the care and custody of his child “does not spring full-blown” from a biological connection, and the “mere existence of a biological link” does not merit equivalent constitutional protection). In furtherance of these broadened protections, Florida’s adoption statute was amended in June 2012, mandating:

  1. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 63.032(1), that an unmarried biological father must [now] provide both meaningful financial support and emotional support, finding abandonment where the parent, while being able, makes “little or no” provision for the child’s financial support or makes “little to no” effort to communicate with the child; the legislature’s intent in changing the definition of abandonment was to “ease the criteria for considering a child to be abandoned and trigger the placement process”. If, in the opinion of the court, the efforts of such parent to support or communicate with the child are only marginal efforts that do not evince a settled purpose to assume all parental duties (which situation is sufficient to evince an intent to reject parental responsibilities), the court may declare the child to be abandoned. In making this decision, the court may consider the conduct of the father towards the child’s mother during her pregnancy.
  2. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 63.089(4), a finding of abandonment may also be based upon emotional abuse or a refusal to provide reasonable financial support, when able, to a birth mother during her pregnancy or on whether, the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to establish contact with the child or accept responsibility for the child’s welfare. In making a determination of abandonment under this chapter, the court shall consider, among other relevant factors not inconsistent with this section, whether the actions alleged to constitute abandonment demonstrate a willful disregard for the safety or welfare of the child or the unborn child.
  3. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 63.053(2), the unmarried biological father must “strictly” comply with the detailed provisions of the statute applicable to him by taking “certain demonstrative actions to prove his intent to assert parental rights”. Our Legislature has additionally found the interest of the state, the mother, the child and the adoptive parents outweigh the interests of an unmarried biological father who does not take action in a timely manner to establish or demonstrate a relationship with his child in accord with Chapter 63 and holds the father responsible to protect his own rights and is presumed to know his child may be adopted without his consent unless he “strictly” complies with the mandates of Ch. 63 and demonstrates a prompt and full commitment to his parental responsibilities. § 63.053, Fla. Stat; and
  4. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 63.062, a father must pay a fair and reasonable amount of the living and medical expenses incurred in connection with the Mother’s pregnancy and the Child’s birth. Specifically, Fla. Stat. § 63.062(2) (b)(3) expressly states that a father’s responsibility to demonstrate his financial support for birth mother and child is not abated because a third party is providing such support. Moreover, a father’s mere expression of intent to fulfill his responsibilities is insufficient to defeat a TPR petition based on a finding of abandonment. Fla. Stat. § 63.062(2)(c). This amendment reflects the heightened protections for mothers, adoptive children and adoptive parents first enunciated in Doe and EAW, supra, recognizing that the father’s parental obligation springs from conception and his “legal, after-the-fact gestures toward parenthood” are insufficient. Adoption of Baby E.A.W, 647 So.2d at 924.

In considering abandonment under the statute, the Legislature, through enactment of Fla. Stat. §63.053(1), has conditioned the unmarried biological father’s actions to be sufficiently prompt and substantial so as to require protection of a constitutional right. Should he fail to take actions to timely establish a relationship with his child or comply with the legal steps to substantiate a parental interest, his parental interests may be lost entirely. Id. See also, G.T. v. Adoption of A.E.T, 725 So. 2d 404 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999), which highlighted Justice Kogan’s concurring and dissenting opinion in EAW, finding abandonment sufficient to excuse father’s consent to the child’s adoption, finding, as Petitioners sought the court find herein, [t]he law it is axiomatic that one who sits on his rights forfeits them, and this is no less true of biological fathers with respect to their offspring. A biological father who does not assert his opportunity interest soon after birth simply cannot be equated to someone who does. The 14th Amendment’s due process clause provides many protections, but these do not include “a second chance” to invoke a lapsed right.

The law additionally makes clear that every parent of a child is responsible for their own actions and that any reliance on “a verbal agreement” of his potential ability to waltz back into the child’s life at some time in the future when the child seeks a relationship with him, does not excuse his clear obligation under § 63.062(2) Fla. Stat. to provide for his child, and he is not otherwise excused from his responsibilities under § 63.089(3)(e) Fla. Stat. and (4) because of the actions, statements or omissions of any other person. See, Fla. Stat. § 63.063(1). The Father’s failure to take action on the assumption that the adoptive parent’s attorney “was an adversary and would not help him” is insufficient to overcome abandonment J.S. v. S.A., 912 So.2d 650, (Fla. 4th DCA 2005); see, e.g., Pima County, 876 P.2d at 1133. Further, a father’s mere filing of an objection to an adoption proceeding or otherwise engaging in litigation is insufficient to assert and secure his parental interests in his child. Id.


The initial inquiry in most chapter 63 TPR proceedings is whether there has been consent to the adoption by all those whose consent is required.” A.M v. D.S., 314 So. 3d 747, 753-54 (Fla. 1st DCA 2021). See § 63.089(1), (2)(a), Fla. Stat. Per Sections 63.062(1)(b)3, 4 and 5, Florida Statutes, Father’s consent to Child’s adoption by the Maternal Grandparents was required because, at the time this action was filed, Father was already established as Child’s father by the Courts of Nevada and Florida. Father had not executed a valid consent under section 63.082 and did not consent to the termination of his parental rights or to the Child’s adoption by Maternal Grandparents. Given the Father’s objection to the TPR and to the adoption, due process mandated that the Court address the threshold inquiry of whether Father abandoned the Child, such that his consent is not required before proceeding with the adoption. A.M., 314 So. 3d at 760. The threshold question of abandonment must first be determined. The Court may not adjudicate the “best interest” of the minor child unless the evidence supports a finding of abandonment by the non-consenting parent. Id. citing Webb v. Blancett, 473 So. 2d 1376, 1379 (Fla. 5th DCA 1985); V M v. Home at Last Adoption Agency, 93 So. 3d 1112, 1114 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012). If there is no clear and convincing evidence of abandonment, the lack of consent by the father cannot be excused, and the Petition seeking both TPR and adoption should be dismissed. See § 63.089(5), Fla. Stat. The Court considered Florida Statutes §§ 63.087- 63.089 (63.087(4)(e)3, 63.089(3)(e), 63.089(4) and (4)(a)); 63.032(1); 63.062(2); 63.053(1), (2); 63.064(1); 63.022, in addition to the legal precedent, in determining whether the Petitioners had met their burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence and established that the Father, abandoned the Child within the meaning of the law, making his parental rights terminable through the waiver of his consent to the adoption of his biological daughter by her Maternal Grandparents and Legal Custodians. Chapter 63 provides that abandonment, as defined in § 63.032(1), Florida Statutes, may substitute for actual consent. Section 63.032(1) Florida Statutes defines “Abandoned” to mean:

“[A] situation in which the parent or person having legal custody of a child, while being able, makes little or no provision for the child’s support or makes little or no effort to communicate with the child, which situation is sufficient to evince an intent to reject parental responsibilities. If, in the opinion of the court, the efforts of such parent or person having legal custody of the child to support and communicate with the child are only marginal efforts that do not evince a settled purpose to assume all parental duties, the court may declare the child to be abandoned. In making this decision, the court may consider the conduct of a father towards the child’s mother during her pregnancy.”

Florida Statute § 63.089(4) provides that a finding of abandonment resulting in a termination of parental rights must be based upon clear and convincing evidence that a parent or person having legal custody has abandoned the child in accordance with the definition contained in § 63.032. A finding of abandonment may also be based upon emotional abuse or a refusal to provide reasonable financial support, when able, to a birth mother during her pregnancy or on whether the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to establish contact with the child or accept responsibility for the child’s welfare. In making a determination of abandonment at a hearing for termination of parental rights under this chapter, the court shall consider, among other relevant factors not inconsistent with this section:

  1. Whether the actions alleged to constitute abandonment demonstrate a willful disregard for the safety or welfare of the child or the unborn child;
  2. Whether the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to provide financial support;
  3. Whether the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to pay for medical treatment; and
  4. Whether the amount of support provided, or medical expenses paid was appropriate, taking into consideration the needs of the child and relative
  5. means and resources available to the person alleged to have abandoned the child.

In ruling on the issue of abandonment, the Court recognized its obligation to consider the evidence in light of the following issues:

  1. Did the Father abandon the Mother of the Child during her pregnancy either financially or emotionally;
  2. Did the Father abandon the Mother and the Child after the birth of the Child either financially or emotionally; and
  3. Is the adoption of the Minor Child by the Maternal Grandparents in best interests of the Child.

After considering the totality of the evidence, the court came to the inescapable conclusion that the Father abandoned the Mother financially and emotionally during her pregnancy and abandoned his Child financially and emotionally during the first crucial bond-forming seven years of her life. The Father’s obligation to the Mother and the Child started from conception. He was aware of the Mother’s pregnancy, questioned his paternity and asked her to abort the pregnancy and to do so particularly if she was unable to raise the Child on her own. The Father admitted to prenatal abandonment of Mother and Child. He provided no financial support to Mother during the pregnancy and benefited from the Maternal Grandparents emotional and financial support of their daughter throughout the pregnancy. The Father did not accompany Mother to any of her prenatal appointments and declined to pay for any related expenses unless DNA established he was the father. Upon DNA confirmation that he was the biological Father of the Child, he admittedly emotionally abandoned his child having willingly relinquished the opportunity to develop a relationship with his Child. He moved away to California and Nevada and chose to remove himself physically and psychologically from the Child’s life. The Father admits that he saw the Child for less than two (2) hours total in the first seven (7) years of her life. The court found that, “[t]he key to the abandonment inquiry under chapter 63 was whether the parent had made any effort at all to support or make contact with the child, where the parent otherwise is able to do so.” A.M., 314 So. 3d at 759-60.

The extent of the Father’s interaction with his daughter during the first seven years of her life was limited to seeing her in the hospital for a DNA swab, at a meeting in a lawyer’s office followed by a meeting at a Starbucks during which he does not remember holding her, and a short, less than one hour, in-person meeting when she was two years old. The Father admittedly was not in a position to be a parent, wasn’t looking to be a father and prioritized his pursuit of other interests which led to the estrangement between Father and Child which continues to scar any attempt at reunification. The Father failed to provide support for the Child in a customary or repetitive fashion. Instead, he willingly left his Child in the care and custody of the Mother and Maternal Grandparents admitting they were in the best position to provide and care for his Child and the Child’s best interests would be served by them providing for her.

The Father’s contentions that he remained in continuous contact with the Mother from 2011 to 2013 lacked merit and credibility, and in any event, at most demonstrated an attempt to have a relationship with his Child vicariously through the Mother; the first emails introduced into evidence were not sent until 2013. There was no testimony elicited to suggest that either the Mother or Maternal Grandparents prevented the Father from seeing his Child or being a part of her life or from legally establishing himself as the Child’s father in an effort to acquire visitation or timesharing.

The Father accepted financial responsibility for the Child in the face of Court ordered child support in 2014 but did not seek to legally establish any parental rights until 2017. Moreover, and despite being afforded the opportunity to add his name to the birth record in 2014, he sat on those rights until 2019. The Father’s claim that he provided the Mother and the Maternal Grandfather twelve $100 postdated checks as and for child support for the first year of the child’s life lacked evidentiary support and credibility. The evidence supported a finding that Father provided one check in the amount of $100. He did not provide baby items, furniture, clothing, formula or diapers for the Child and admittedly was not present in the Child’s life for any of her milestones, referencing In re: Matter of Adoption of Doe, 543 So. 2d 741, 746-47 (Fla. 1989) (The Fla. S. Ct., affirming a finding of pre-birth abandonment where the father’s efforts to support the pregnant mother, having paid one month’s rent, providing some furniture and use of a microwave while the mother received assistance from other sources were ‘marginal’, holding that abandonment “turns on the question of whether the parent has evinced a settled purpose to assume parental duties”). The Father testified he worked and had the means and ability to provide for the Child. There was no testimony from the Father that he did not have the ability to pay or that either the Mother or Maternal Grandparents refused support from him. The Father’s claim that he provided financial support to the Mother for the benefit of the Child from 2011 to 2013 and, in addition to the Nevada Child support Order, provided additional funds and gifts to the Mother for the benefit of the Child likewise lacked evidentiary support or credibility. By the Father’s own testimony, any support provided to the Mother for the benefit of the Child during that time was because he considered himself blackmailed by the Mother into providing funds for his Child.

While the Father claims he was in constant and continued contact with the Mother from 2013 through 2017, he admitted he was unaware that his Child had been transferred to the temporary custody of the Maternal Grandparents in 2014 based upon the consent of the Mother. The Petitioner, Maternal Grandparents, established by clear and convincing evidence that the Father’s conduct during the first seven years of the Child’s life has sufficiently demonstrated an intent to avoid being a parent to the Child such that the required consent to adoption fairly can be excused. A.M.., 314 So. 3d at 753-754.

On or between August 13, 2017 and November 29, 2018, the Father was given a second chance to meet and reunify with the Child. Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, he disregarded the Maternal Grandmother’s advice to be patient, and when the reunification process faltered, he accused the Maternal Grandparents of alienating him from the Child. At trial, the Father alleged that the Maternal Grandparents were not suitable caretakers for the Child and attacked their decision to ask their daughter, the Mother, to move out of their residence when her drug use threatened the safety and welfare of the Child. The Father suggested that the Maternal Grandparents would make the same decision if the Child were in a similar situation ignoring the fact that they had supported their daughter throughout her rehabilitation attempts.

The Father demanded an emotional connection from the Child which she was unwilling or unable to make. The Child simply did not see him as her father and repeatedly stated that she enjoyed her playdates with his girlfriend’s children. She refused to call him “Abba” or Dad and resisted further attempts at reunification when he denied her access to her Maternal Grandparents. The evidence is clear and convincing that the Child did not want to be with the Father and perceived his attempts at reunification as a means to sever her relationship with her Maternal Grandparents, the only parents that she’d known and relied upon since birth. As the Child resisted the Father’s attempts at reunification, he refused to recognize that his own actions, not those of the Maternal Grandparents, were causing irreparable harm to his developing a parent-child relationship with the Child. The Father placed his needs above those of the Child and insisted that the Child adapt to new and different cultural, religious, and family environments, disregarding the fact that she loved going to church, enjoyed the choir, playing with her friends and was thriving in an emotionally stable and loving atmosphere created by her Maternal Grandparents. The Child’s words, “I never want to see him again”, resonated for the court, a vortex of estrangement by the Father during the first seven years of her life that could not be ignored. The evidence was uncontroverted that the Maternal Grandparents sought to adopt their granddaughter to formalize the parent-child relationship that had existed between then since her birth.

In summary, the Court held the Maternal Grandparents did not perpetrate a fraud upon the Court in their filings and representation in the Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family Member. The Father was not legally entitled to Notice where, as here, he had not established his paternity and had not filed with the Putative Father Registry. The Maternal Grandparents were found to be credible, acted in good faith and were legally justified in their representations to the court and legally and lawfully acquired custody of the Child through said proceedings. The Child had lived with them her entire life. The Maternal Grandparents had provided a safe, stable, and predictable environment and life within which for the Child to grow and they demonstrated protective capacity. The court found the best interest of the Child would be served through their adoption of the Child.

The Father failed to support the Child financially until ordered to do so by the Courts in 2014. Prior to that time, he had the means and ability to provide her with financial support yet failed to do so. The Father otherwise failed to establish or maintain a relationship with the Child required to evince a settled purpose to parent for the first seven years of her life. Respondent evinced no settled purpose to assume any parental duties, or any plan. He showed no real emotional or financial support for this Child or the Mother at this time, despite having the means and the ability to do so. He had notice of and knowledge of his responsibilities and his obligation to support. The fact that he expressed a desire to fulfill his responsibility toward his Child, unsupported by acts evidencing such intent, was insufficient to meet the requirements of a person whose consent is necessary for adoption due to his abandonment. § 63.062(2)(c), Fla. Stat.

The court found there to be clear and convincing evidence that Father abandoned the Child based upon the totality of the evidence and the statutory precedent set forth in Florida Statutes, §§63.032(1), 63.089(3), 63.089(4), 63.053 (1) and (2), and 63.062(2). As such, his consent, otherwise required to the adoption, was found otherwise excused under 63.064(1), sufficient to terminate his parental rights in favor of adoption of the child by her Maternal Grandparents.


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