By: Andrea R. Jacobs, Esq.
State laws (including Florida’s statutes) make it difficult for an adult’s parental rights to be terminated. This does not mean that parental rights are guaranteed, however. In certain cases, courts can terminate a person’s parental rights.
These rights include the right to spend time with the child, make decisions affecting the welfare of the child, and who has access to the child. Both the natural mother of the child as well as the biological father of the child are able to exercise these parental rights. While courts generally defer to parents and allow parents to exercise their rights, courts do have authority to intervene and limit or terminate parental rights.
Situations that warrant termination of parental rights are usually abandonment of the child, neglect or cruelty, a parent that has severe disabilities related to alcohol, controlled substances, or moral depravity, a parent has been convicted of a felony, or been declared developmentally disabled or mentally ill. At least one of these grounds must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Parents can also execute a voluntary surrender of the child. Parental rights can be terminated in connection with a dependency proceeding or in connection with an adoption proceeding. Termination of parental rights hearings are closed proceedings and as appropriate, exclude persons who are not parties, participants, persons entitled to notice of advisory, or lawyers in the case. Fla. Stat. § 39.809(4). These proceedings are highly sensitive and should never be attempted without the assistance of an experienced attorney.