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What can prompt motions to terminate parental rights in Florida?

We have written often about the shift that has taken place in the landscape when it comes to how the Florida law approaches family law matters related to child custody and parental involvement. In recent years, especially when handling divorce cases, the focus has moved from trying to decide which parent should have the greatest control over parenting to one that seeks to keep both parents actively and equally involved.

The premise of that policy is that the parent-child relationship is of such a special nature that the child's best interest is better met if both parents remain part of the child's life through all his or her formative years.

However, there may be times when the best interests of a child are better served if contact with one, the other, or both parents are severed altogether. This not a process that is undertaken lightly, and as the relevant Florida statute makes clear, much effort goes into ensuring that proper grounds for termination exist.

The text of the statute is long and involved. In brief, here are some of the critical grounds under which parental rights can be terminated.

  • Voluntary:Parents can surrender a child to the state. The state has to agree to take the child. The legal termination of parental rights must be done in writing and be properly witnessed and notarized.
  • Abandonment: This is defined as an able parent failing to significantly contribute to a child's care and maintenance and/or failing to maintain a positive, substantive relationship with the child.
  • Improper conduct: If conduct by a parent toward a child can be shown to threatn the child's safety, general well-being and developmental health, termination of parental rights may be sought.
  • Incarceration: If a parent is convicted of a crime and faces incarceration, a petition to terminate rights might be considered. But the law specifies that the court must consider a lot of different factors before giving its approval to such an action.

What this all serves to show is that protection of parental rights is considered serious business under the law. To be sure that all fully protected, it's important for anyone facing such issues to work with an attorney.

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