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Terminating Parental Rights: What Does it Mean in Florida?

The termination of parental rights has serious implications. Parenting a child is an enormous personal and financial responsibility. Most parents willingly take that responsibility. However in some instances, termination of parental rights could be in the best interests of a child — or the wish of a parent.

Here are some circumstances under which ending parental rights might be considered:

  • The biological parent of a child might have no interest in his or her child. Often times in stepparent adoptions, a biological parent can voluntarily terminate the relationship with his or her child with the approval of the court. A parent, however, may not terminate his or her parental rights solely for the reason of ending the financial obligation to his or her child.
  • Termination of parental rights could occur if the continued relationship with a parent is harmful to the child. A parent who threatens the safety or well-being of his or her child could have parental rights involuntarily terminated. These cases typically involve parental drug abuse or parental neglect or abuse of a child.
  • Parental rights can be terminated for abandonment of a child. A parent who cannot be found, or who makes no significant contribution to the care and maintenance of his or her child, could have parental rights involuntarily terminated by the court.
  • A parent who is incarcerated may have his or her parental rights involuntarily terminated. Persons designated as violent career criminals, habitual felony offenders or sexual predators may see parenting rights terminated.

The termination of parental rights is a legal issue governed by the court. Other than step-parent adoption proceedings, termination of parental rights actions are usually brought by the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) in Dependency Court upon allegations that a parent has “abused, abandoned or neglected their child, you may be able to file an independent action for dependency without DCF. If you have questions about the involuntary or voluntary termination of parental rights in Florida, speak with an experienced family law attorney in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney Andrea Jevic also contributed to this blog post.

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