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M.W. v. Department of Children & Family Services

Florida District Court of Appeal
881 So. 2d 734 (2004)


Facts

M.W. (defendant) sexually abused his stepdaughter, J.G., by having intercourse with the girl for three years beginning when the girl was ten. M.W. was charged with criminal sexual abuse. He agreed to a consent order that allowed J.G. to be declared dependent on the state and therefore removed from M.W.’s custody. M.W. was free on bail pending the criminal proceeding. M.W. also had three natural daughters between the ages of three and eight. There was no evidence that he had sexually abused them. Nevertheless, while the criminal case was pending, the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) (plaintiff) petitioned to have M.W.’s natural daughters also declared dependent. M.W. was evaluated by a psychologist, who reported that the risk of M.W. abusing his natural daughters was unlikely but increased, nevertheless, by his abuse of the stepdaughter. As to J.G., M.W. showed a high likelihood of recidivism. He blamed the stepdaughter for the abuse and showed no remorse. M.W. was also found to be psychologically disturbed. The psychologist recommended that he complete a sex-offender treatment program, but there was no evidence that M.W. did so. Taking judicial notice of the consent order relating to J.G. and considering the expert testimony and totality of circumstances, the trial court adjudged M.W.’s natural daughters to be dependent. M.W. appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cope, J.)

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