April 16, 2024

SSRGA’s Legal Triumph: Upholding Parental Rights in Home Confinement Cases

SSRGA successfully represented a father in a parental rights matter brought before the 4th District Court of Appeal by the child’s mother, the appellant. The case originated in the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County.

The crux of the matter revolved around the interpretation of section 39.806(1)(d) of the Florida Statutes, which allows for the termination of parental rights under certain circumstances when a parent is incarcerated. The mother filed a private petition to sever our client’s parental rights while he was serving a 72-month sentence in federal prison. While the petition was pending, the father was released and subsequently placed on home confinement for the remainder of his sentence. The mother then filed a motion asking the trial court whether the home confinement qualified as incarceration under 39.806(1)(d).

During a hearing, the father stood firm in defending his rights as a parent. He testified that, with prior approval, he is allowed to take his child to and from school, doctors’ appointments and extracurricular activities, and to his mother’s home and have the child stay at his own home. Since he demonstrated he was fully available to the child, without rebuttal, the trial court ruled that he was not incarcerated as it relates to section 39.806(1)(d) and dismissed the mother’s petition.

The mother appealed, arguing that the home confinement was part of the dad’s prison sentence, which, in her view, constituted incarceration. While the statute does not define incarceration under the statute in question, the mother relied on Black’s Law Directory to define the term as generally “[t]he act or process of confining someone”. However, SSRGA argued that when you consider legislative intent, being placed in home confinement does not constitute incarceration. The appellate court acknowledged that in the past it had defined incarceration as being confined in a governmental institution and that being held in house arrest is not an equivalent. The appellate court further held that when a parent is placed on home confinement with terms that enable the parent to be involved in the child’s care and well-being, the parent is not incarcerated under section 39.806(1)(d).

The court, therefore, affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the mother’s petition.