What Are a Parent’s Rights in a Florida Guardianship Proceeding Involving Their Child?
Many Florida parents find themselves acting as guardians for their incapacitated adult children. But keep in mind, parents do not have an automatic right to act as guardian without restriction. Adult guardianships are subject to active court supervision. This means a judge can remove a parent as guardian and replace them with someone else if there is just cause.
Appeals Court Rules Judge Improperly Excluded Mother from Hearing on Whether to Replace Her as Son’s Guardian
What are a parent’s rights in such situations? A recent decision from the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals, Carter v. Guardianship of Bromberg, addressed this question. This case involves a guardianship established for an adult male who is on the autism spectrum. The child’s father resigned as guardian, prompting the court to name the mother as guardian.
A year later, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) intervened, asking the court to enter a protective order on behalf of the ward (the autistic adult). Essentially, the DCF believed the ward was the subject of “abuse, neglect, or exploitation” under his mother’s guardianship. Following a hearing, the court suspended the mother from her position as guardian pending further proceedings.
Eventually, DCF and an attorney appointed to represent the ward moved to “disqualify” the mother from serving as guardian moving forward. The court held another hearing on the issue. The mother was present for this hearing, but the judge would not allow her to participate. Ultimately, the judge sided with DCF and appointed a professional guardian to replace the mother on a permanent basis.
The mother appealed the judge’s ruling to the Fifth District. She maintained that under Florida law, she had the right to participate in the hearing as an “interested person” in the guardianship. The appeals court agreed. The mother was her adult son’s “next of kin,” and as such, she did have a statutory right to “reasonable notice of the hearing” and to participate in said hearing. The Fifth District therefore returned the case for a new hearing.
One of the judges on the Fifth District panel, Judge Brian D. Lambert, wrote separately to explain that nothing in its order requires the trial court to reinstate the mother ass guardian. The issue here was simply respecting the mother’s due process rights as an interested person. Furthermore, Lambert suggested that if the trial court again decides to remove the mother as guardian, then “her status as the Ward’s next of kin does not automatically entitle her to full participation at all future hearings pertaining to her son’s guardianship.”
Speak with a Lee County, Florida, Guardianship Attorney Today
Guardianships are designed to help people who cannot care for themselves. Guardians must always understand that their position depends on how well they provide such help. A Florida court will not hesitate to remove a guardian–even a parent–if there is evidence of abuse or neglect.
If you are involved in this type of situation and need legal advice from an experienced Fort Myers guardianship lawyer, contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a free confidential consultation.