Legal Methods to Protect Your Family Unit
Over the last decade, the concept of the traditional family has been modified, amended, and redefined to espouse and encapsulate the various types of families that are now becoming the new normal. With the redefinition of traditional families, Florida law, along with the laws of the other states, must be flexible to tackle the major issues that come from the new normal where the actual parents and guardians of the children may not be one and the same as the biological parents. If your marriage or familial rights are being threatened, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
Though the law is slow to change, generally, there are administrative ways to ensure that your family is legally recognized and ensure that if there is a major issue that occurs in the future, your family unit will be protected from interlopers. The first way to ensure that your family is protected is through traditional marriage. When two people decide to start a family, the best way to ensure that the family is legally recognized beyond just through biological ties (especially where everyone is not necessarily related by blood) is through traditional marriage. For a marriage to be recognized, there must be a valid marriage certificate and the two parties must be of age (or have consent if they are minors), must not be currently married to another person, and must voluntarily enter into the union.
Legal Relationship Between a Parent and Child
For the children to be legally recognized, this can be done either through biological relationship or through legal adoption. At any one time there can only be two parents per child. This means that if the biological parents divorce, and one of the biological parents remarries, the child is still the child of the biological parents and has no legal relationship with the stepparent. If a stepparent wants to have a legally defined relationship, the other biological parent must terminate his or her parental rights so that the stepparent can then adopt the child.
How a Stepparent May Gain Legal Rights to a Child
The termination of parental rights of the other biological parent can be difficult depending on the circumstances. If the biological parent is a constant figure in the child’s life, unless it can be proven that this biological parent is unfit to be the child’s parent, the stepparent will have an impossible time gaining parental rights. This is because Florida law holds sacred parental rights and believes that the best interest of the child is to have a relationship with both parents. Even if the stepparent is married to one of the biological parents and has a good relationship with the child, the Court will protect the rights of the other biological parent to not be pushed out of his or her relationship with his or her child.
If the Other Biological Parent is Abusive or Has Had No Contact With the Child
However, if the other biological parent is abusive or has had no contact with the child and has abandoned the family, the termination of the biological parent’s parental rights is more likely. To terminate the biological parent’s rights who is abusive, proof of abuse may satisfy the requirement to show that not only is the biological parent unfit to parent, but that it is in the best interest of the child that there is not a continued relationship, whether custodial or through visitation, between the child and the abusive parent.
If the biological parent has disappeared and there is no contact in order to terminate the parental rights of that parent, if the family can show that that biological parent has not contributed to the health and well-being of the child nor provided financial support to maintain the child and also have filled out an affidavit of diligent search and inquiry, the biological parent’s rights may be terminated by the court. The affidavit of diligent search and inquiry is to ensure that all reasonable methods were used to track down the parent and notify him or her of the pending proceedings to terminate his or her parental rights. If the parent is not found after reasonable efforts were made, his or her parental rights can be terminated and the stepparent may petition the court to gain parental rights to the child.
Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.