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Kingsley v. Kingsley

Improper Parental Comparisons

The third issue involved the adoption order. Rachel Kingsley argued the district court should not have tried the termination and adoption cases simultaneously. Such action by the court violated her rights to procedural due process of the law. Mistakenly, according to Rachel, the court had shifted its focus from the abandonment and neglect issue to comparing her parenting skills with those of the proposed adoptive parents. This comparison ignored her fundamental interest in Gregory on its own merit. Diamantis agreed with Rachel.

He ruled that trying the two petitions separately would avoid this inappropriate comparison of parenting skills. Such comparisons could unnecessarily influence termination decisions. Diamantis wrote that termination cases must focus solely on issues of abandonment, neglect, or abuse. That a child may be better off with the prospective adoptive parents was not legally relevant in deciding termination. Natural parents retain custody unless found unfit. Another could not obtain custody merely because they might provide better care.

Diamantis found that Rachel's appeal regarding termination effectively suspended the adoption case. When Rachel contested termination in district court, the court should have immediately suspended any further consideration of the adoption issue. Diamantis was especially concerned that the adoption order was issued prior to terminating parental rights contrary to Florida law. The law specifically stated that an appeal of an order terminating parental rights automatically suspended any placement of the child for adoption. Diamantis affirmed the order terminating Rachel's parental rights, but reversed the adoption order.

Judge Harris, in dissent, argued the court should have simply judged whether Rachel had really done something so bad that she should lose her child. Although agreeing with the majority that Gregory had no legal standing as a minor, Harris insisted Rachel should have had a new hearing on the abandonment issue. He believed the district court's error in considering abandonment and adoption together was not as "harmless" as the majority ruled. Adoption issues likely tainted the abandonment arguments too severely to be ignored as the majority were doing.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Kingsley v. Kingsley - Significance, A Child As A Person, Improper Parental Comparisons, Impact, Further Readings