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Termination of Parental Rights

FatherDaughter

Parenting is one of the greatest joys that most people will ever experience, and the law recognizes the special relationship between parent and child by making it very difficult to remove a person’s parental rights once established. Parents are given a great amount of leeway to decide how to raise their children, including who is allowed access to their child, where the child attends school, the type of medical care they receive, and the activities in which they participate. However, this right is not absolute, and a court has the power to remove it if certain circumstances exist. People tend to associate the termination of parental rights with contentious divorce proceedings, but in fact, a court can take away these rights away any time the interests of the child demand such action. Further, parents also sometimes choose to voluntarily relinquish parental rights, though it still requires court acknowledgement before a parent’s rights and obligations are formally severed. A discussion of circumstances beyond divorce that can result in termination, and how this process is initiated in the court system, will follow below.

Voluntary Termination

As noted above, termination may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary terminations are typically connected with adoption or paternity actions, and occur when a parent does not wish to keep or assume responsibility for a child. In the case of adoption, the parent can sign a form surrendering his/her rights to the child, or sign a consent to an adoption and termination of parental rights. Both documents must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. Further, these documents are not valid if executed under duress or fraud, and may be invalidated if that is the case. In addition, legal fathers, a status assumed through marriage or paternity, can execute an affidavit disclaiming the child, which usually follows discovery the child does not belong to the man, or as part of a pending adoption.

Forced Termination

Forced terminations are the result of both direct and indirect actions by the parent that endanger the welfare of the child. Because of the serious and final nature of involuntary terminations, these cases are often quite complex, as the court seeks to find a less extreme alternative that allows the child to maintain a relationship with the parent. However, a court is authorized to terminate parental rights in the following situations:

  • The parent abandons the child – No real effort was made to establish a parent/child relationship or provide for the child’s needs, or the parent cannot be located for 60 or more days.
  • The parent threatens the child’s wellbeing – This is not limited to physical threats, and also includes mental and emotional harm, but does need to be serious enough to pose a significant risk to the child’s welfare.
  • The parent engaged in egregious conduct or failed to protect the child from others engaging in unacceptable acts– This could be abandonment, neglect, abuse, or other outrageous conduct that directly harmed the child’s wellbeing.
  • When the parent’s other children were removed from the home or the parental rights were involuntarily terminated, this conduct can justify terminating the parental rights for the remaining children.

Procedure to Terminate

To initiate the termination of parental rights, a petition must be filed with the court by an interested party – the other parent, a non-parent in physical custody of the child, or the state. The petition must include facts to explain why termination is necessary, and with adoptions, show the parent consented to termination or consent is unnecessary. The court then holds a hearing to receive evidence and arguments in favor of granting or denying the petition. If the termination is involuntary, the best interests of the child control the outcome, and if adoption is sought, clear and convincing evidence in favor of termination must be established.

Get Help

The termination of parental rights is no small thing, but if you are worried about a child’s welfare, or want to pursue adoption, this step is necessary to protect the child and move forward. Our team handles a variety of legal issues related to parenting, and understand how to navigate these sensitive situations.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay for a consultation at no charge. They can be reached at 813-672-1900.

by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0063/Sections/0063.062.html

All Family Law Group, P.A.
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