Sunday, December 8, 2013

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

M.W. v. Department of Children & Family Services case brief summary
881 So. 2D 734 (2004)

Appellant father sought review of the decision of the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County (Florida) which adjudicated his three natural daughters dependent. The father argued the evidence was legally insufficient to support the dependency order and that his sexual abuse of his stepdaughter was insufficient to support a dependency adjudication as to his natural daughters.

The father was arrested for sexual battery on his stepdaughter. Appellee Florida Department of Children and Family Services alleged that the father had sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter over a three-year period, beginning when the child was 10. The father eventually admitted to sexually abusing the child.


  • The trial court found that the risk of imminent sexual abuse to the natural children was increased by the father's act as to the stepdaughter, his lack of remorse, and his psychological functioning. 
  • The father was at liberty on bail. 
  • Thus, there was no physical impediment to his having contact with the children. 
  • The remaining children were all younger daughters, who were plainly not old enough to protect themselves. 
  • The appellate court held that because the nature of the harm was so great, it was intolerable to allow even a low probability that the father would sexually abuse the other children. 
  • The psychologist testified that while the danger to the natural children was below base rates, it was not zero, by any means. 
  • The father also failed to complete a treatment program. 
  • Those factors, too, supported the conclusion that he could not be left to his own devices.
The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

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