A child's parents automatically have certain natural rights accorded them. The natural mother and biological father of a child obviously enjoy the right to spend time with the child, make sound decisions towards the child's wellbeing, and may control who should have access to their life.
In recognition of the importance of both parents in the lives of children and the adverse effects of their absence, Florida laws make it difficult but not impossible to terminate the parental rights of a child's parents. However, under certain adverse and/or unfortunate circumstances, parental rights can be terminated.
Statutory Grounds For Termination of Parental Rights In Florida
According to Florida statutes, parental rights can be terminated by the court under these conditions -
- Voluntary written surrender executed by the parent before a notary public and two witnesses. This is often obtainable in adoption cases. Once signed, the written surrender cannot be entered in under duress or fraud.
- Abandonment of the child by the parents, that is when a parent fails to meaningfully contribute to a child's wellbeing or establish a healthy steady relationship with the child.
- Threat to the child's wellbeing owing to the parent's action or inaction - like alcoholism, or abuse of a substance. The court must be convinced that such action will place the child's mental, emotional and physical health in jeopardy.
- Incarceration of the parent, especially when said parent will remain incarcerated for most of the child's life or is the result of a violent/sexual crime. In addition, if that parent is repeatedly incarcerated throughout the child's life, his/her parental rights may be terminated by the court.
- A child has been adjudicated dependent and the parents failed to comply with the case plan for 12 months or breached the plan in some way, the court may rescind the parental rights.
- Egregious conduct from the parent including abandonment, abuse and other forms of harmful misconduct from the parents, or an inability of the parents to protect the child from such acts, can revoke parental rights. Also, when the such acts have been committed against siblings of the child.
- Exposing the child or another child to sexual abuse or chronic abuse.
- When a parent commits murder, manslaughter, aids or abets a murder, or commits a felony which leads to serious bodily injury to a child.
- Involuntary termination of the parent's parental rights to the child's sibling.
- Parents with a history of abuse of alcohol or controlled substance and refusal of treatment.
- When a child tests positive for alcohol or controlled substance with at least one other child adjudicated dependent for same reasons.
- If the child or another child have been placed in out-of-home care on three or more occasions as a result of the parent actions.
Procedure for termination of parental rights begins with filing of petition by the child's legal guardian or other individuals, including the one with the child's physical custody. The court will then hear the petition and weigh all the available options and evidences.