Terminating Parental Rights
The state of Florida recognizes that it is generally best for a child to grow up with the influence of both parents. Thus, it is difficult for a person’s parental rights to be terminated. But in some situations, termination is appropriate. A Palm Beach family law attorney can help you if you have an issue with parental rights.
In Florida, parents, meaning natural mothers and biological fathers, have rights regarding their children. This includes the right to make parenting decisions, such as healthcare or schooling decisions, the right to spend time with the child, and the right to decide who can see the child. Generally, parents have the right to make these decisions. But in some cases, the court steps in and terminates parental rights.
A written surrender is typically used in adoption cases. It is a written form, signed by the parent and two witnesses, and notarized. It means that a parent gives up any parental rights that he or she had. A surrender cannot be withdrawn unless a parent can show that he or she signed due to fraud or duress, meaning trickery or undue pressure.
A person’s parental rights may be terminated when the parent has not made any real effort to have a relationship with the child and has not made any substantial financial contribution to the child. Additionally, if the parent cannot be located for sixty or more days, his or her rights may be terminated.
A parent threatens a child’s welfare when he or she poses a risk to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health. The threat must be a serious, continuing threat to the child’s wellbeing in order to justify terminating parental rights.
Generally, a parent’s rights are terminated because of incarceration when the parent is to be incarcerated for a large portion of the child’s life or when the parent has committed certain violent or sexual crimes. It may also occur when the parent demonstrates a pattern of behavior that indicates that he or she will likely be incarcerated for a significant portion of the child’s life. For example, a repeat offender’s rights may be terminated, even if the individual offenses have short sentences.
When a minor is adjudicated dependent and the parents do not follow the case plan, their parental rights may be terminated. The court may find:
- Continuing abuse;
- That the parent has not made much progress on the case plan for twelve of the past twenty-two months; or
- Evidence that the parent will not be able to comply with the case plan.
This includes conduct such as abandonment, abuse, neglect, or other similar behavior. A parent’s rights may be terminated when such conduct occurs, whether the parent committed it or another person did, if the parent did not take steps to protect the child. The conduct may also be against a sibling.
The fact that a parent has had parental rights to other children terminated, or had other children involuntarily moved from the home, is grounds for terminating parental rights.
A parent’s parental rights may be terminated for purposes of an adoption, if he or she:
- Signs a consent in front of two witnesses and notary;
- For fathers, signs an affidavit that he is not the child’s father;
- Does not respond to notice of the adoption;
- Abandons the child; or
- Is incapacitated, meaning that the parent is unable to care for him or herself because of physical or mental incapacity, often, when the parent is in a
If you have any questions about the parental rights of you or your co-parent, it is important to consult an attorney who can ensure that your best interests and those of your child are represented. Please call West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein today for a free initial consultation.