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Under What Circumstances May Parental Rights be Terminated in Florida?

Under What Circumstances May Parental Rights be Terminated in Florida?

Under What Circumstances May Parental Rights be Terminated in Florida?

Parental rights are a topic of interest to parents, children, family members and legal counsel. There are several situations in which a parent or family member may question the ability to terminate parental rights. Florida State Law provides numerous provisions that identify grounds for the termination of parental rights.

Written Surrender
In some cases, parents willingly surrender their parental rights. This can be completed voluntarily and is executed with a written surrender of the child with an order of custody to the department or another party. The surrender document must be completed with the presence of two witnesses and a notary public or other authorized individual.

Child Abandonment
Child abandonment, for obvious reasons, is grounds for parental termination. Regardless of the location of the abandonment (family member, church, hospital, etc.), the desertion of a child is taken very seriously and represents a legitimate grounds to terminate parental rights. A child is considered abandoned if the parent(s) are unknown and cannot be determined within a 60-day period.

Parental Conduct
Continued violent conduct towards a child can lead to the termination of parental rights. If the parent threatens the life of the child, compromises their safety or wellbeing, or bring about physical, mental or emotional harm to the child the parent runs the risk of losing their rights. Obviously physical, emotional, or psychological abuse may fall under this category. Additionally, threats or lack of attention to a child’s safety can also fall under parental misconduct. Proof of this is often identified in a case plan from a child welfare agency identifying that services had been provided previously and that violence continued despite the intervention.

Parental Incarceration
Incarceration is often a concern for parental rights. There are several situations of parental incarceration that may constitute the termination of parental rights. The first of these is related to the duration of the parental incarceration. If the parent is to be incarcerated for a significant period of time of the child’s life (up until age 18, of course), there may be grounds for the termination of parental rights. A significant period of time is determined by the court who takes into consideration the child’s age and need for a permanent, stable home. If the incarcerated parent has been deemed to be violent, a sexual predator, a career criminal or a habitual, violent felony offender, the court may have grounds to terminate parental rights.

The final situation is if the court determines that the child’s continued relationship with the incarcerated parent would be harmful to the child, the court may have grounds to terminate the parental rights. The court would evaluate the child’s age, parental relationship, parent’s role in the child’s current and past development, and parent’s history of criminal behavior. The court then determines if a continued relationship with the incarcerated parent is in the best interests of the child.

Adjudicated Dependence
Grounds for termination of parental rights may be established if a child has been an adjudicated dependent, a case has been filed by the court and the child continues to undergo abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parent(s). An adjudicated dependent is most often a child who has been removed from the home because of abuse, neglect or other issues at home that prevent the parents from appropriately caring for the child. There may also be grounds for termination of parental rights if the parent has breached the case plan with the court or has demonstrated an inability to comply with the case plan. If parents have not complied for a period of 12 months, not due to financial constraints after the child has been placed in shelter care, the court can move towards a termination of parental rights.

Egregious Conduct
Egregious conduct committed by the parent, or exposure of egregious conduct to the children that may threaten their life or safety represents grounds for parental right termination. Egregious conduct is roughly defined as distinguished, bad behavior or flagrant behavior. As standard, egregious behavior threatening the life, safety, physical or emotional health of the child represents grounds for termination of parental rights. Abuse, abandonment, neglect or other deplorable conduct may qualify as egregious.

Abuse
If the parent is responsible for or has subjected a child to aggravated or chronic physical or emotional abuse, there may be grounds for termination of parental rights. The same applies to sexual abuse and sexual battery. These two offenses are taken very seriously and also may warrant termination of parental rights.

Murder/Voluntary Manslaughter
Murder and voluntary manslaughter of another child are highly concerning and immediately prompt the possibility of parental termination of other children. If one or both parents have either committed murder or voluntary manslaughter, committed a felonious assault on a child or attempted, aided, or conspired to commit such a crime, parental rights may be terminated.

Sibling Parental Termination
If the parental rights of a sibling are terminated, there may be grounds to terminate parental rights of another child. This most often occurs because the situation surrounding the case of the sibling applies to the child in question.

Parental Alcohol/Drug Abuse
Many individuals don’t know that parental drug and alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to the termination of parental rights. If a parent holds a history of an extensive, chronic abuse of alcohol or other controlled substance putting him/her in a position in which they are unable to care for the child, and they have failed to comply with court-ordered treatment for a 3 year period, there is grounds to file a petition for termination of parental rights.

Positive Birth Drug Test
Drug and alcohol testing is often completed at the birth of a child whose mother has previously exposed another child to a controlled substance or alcohol and said child is an adjudicated dependent. Said mother would have had to have access to treatment in the interim. Should any of these tests completed on the newborn, whether blood, urine or meconium, reveal any level of alcohol or controlled substance not related to their medical care, and mother has not been compliant with treatment, there may be grounds for termination of parental rights.

Out of Home Placement
Parental rights may be terminated if a child has been placed in out-of-home care on three or more occasions due to a condition that is the fault of the parent.

Sexual Battery
A petition for termination of parental rights may be filed if there is clear evidence that a child had been conceived as the result of sexual battery. In these situations, it is typically assumed that the termination of the parental rights is in the best interests of the child because of the nature of the way the child was conceived.

Parent Registered Sexual Predator
If a parent has been found guilty of an offense that has required him/her to register as a sexual predator, there is grounds for termination of his/her parental rights.
There are numerous situations in which parental rights can be terminated. Voluntary surrender of parental rights or parental abandonment of the child represent two situations in which the child has been willingly given up. Other grounds for the termination of parental rights are related to the criminal acts of the parents; child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, parental incarceration, parental criminal acts such as murder, and parental drug and alcohol abuse. Parental rights may also be terminated if a child has been deemed an adjudicated dependent and parents have been non-compliant with the treatment plan for greater than 12 months. The termination of parental rights represents a very serious legal concern that has life-altering consequences both on the parents and the children involved. It’s incredibly important to seek legal counsel when dealing with a legal situation with such sensitivity.