Termination of Parental Rights in Florida

Becoming a parent is a great responsibility that many embrace with joy and anticipation, but there are circumstances where terminating parental rights may be the correct decision for everyone involved – both the parents and the child. The basis for the termination of parental rights in Florida is either voluntary or involuntary, and there are multiple grounds that a court can use to sever a person’s rights and responsibilities towards a child.

Voluntary Termination

Voluntary termination happens in two ways. The first is when one or both parents express in writing their willingness to surrender the child and agree to give custody of the child to the Florida Department of Children and Families so the child can be adopted. The written statement saying they will give up the child must be signed in front of two witnesses and a notary public. The surrender of a child can only be reversed if a court finds the consent was given fraudulently or while under duress.

The second way a termination is voluntary happens when a parent is deemed to have “abandoned” the child, as defined by law, or the identity or location of one or both parents is unknown and cannot be determined within 60 days after searching. “Abandoned” in this case means the parent did not provide for the child and failed to establish a meaningful relationship through “frequent and regular contact.”

Involuntary Termination

Involuntary termination happens in a number of ways and usually involves the state intervening to end the relationship to protect the child’s welfare.

  • The first basis for involuntary termination occurs when the court decides the parent engaged in conduct that indicates continued involvement with the child would endanger the “life, safety, well-being, physical, mental or emotional health of the child.”

  • The next basis for involuntary termination involves parents who are incarcerated and will remain incarcerated for a significant portion of the child’s life prior to the age of 18, or a court determines the incarcerated parent is a “violent career criminal,” a “habitual violent felony offender,” a sexual offender or was convicted of first or second degree murder.

  • A parent can also lose their parental rights if the child was removed from the home as part of a dependency case with the Department of Children and Families and the parent continued to show abuse, neglect and abandonment by not complying with the case plan within the nine-month period after the dependency case began. A parent can avoid termination under these circumstances if the parent shows they did not comply due to financial inability or the Department did not reasonably try to reunify the family.

  • The fourth basis for termination arises if the parent engaged in “egregious conduct.” This is conduct that is far outside the actions of a reasonable parent that endangered the life of child. If the action is extreme enough, once is sufficient to justify termination.

  • A parent who chronically or sexually abuses a child or sibling or engages in aggravated child abuse can also have parental rights terminated.

  • The sixth ground for termination exists where a parent commits the murder, manslaughter or conspiracy to commit murder of the other parent or another child, or a felony battery that severely injured the child or another child.

  • If a parent has a history of chronic alcohol or drug abuse that makes the parent unable to care for the child and the parent fails to comply with a treatment program within three years of the filing a termination of rights action, the court can terminate the rights of the parent.

  • If parental rights to a sibling of the child were lost, a court can use this fact as a basis for severing the rights to this child.

  • If a baby receives a medical test at birth indicating the mother was using alcohol or illegal drugs and a prior child of the mother was placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families due to this same abuse, this is sufficient grounds to terminate the mother’s rights.

  • Finally, the last ground a court can use to terminate parental rights is if a child or another child is removed from the home three or more times, and the parent created the condition that led to removal.

Contact a Fort Lauderdale Attorney Today

If you are facing the involuntary termination of your parental rights, finding a lawyer experienced in this area is crucial to effectively fighting for your rights and the rights of your child. Stok Kon + Braverman is a highly experienced Florida law firm focusing on family law issues, and we are available to help you today.