A recent 4th District Court of Appeal ruling clarified the proper factors for determining if a parent has sufficiently abandoned his child to allow the courts to terminate his parental rights and gave a pair of grandparents’ effort to adopt their grandchild new life. The appeals court’s ruling explained that, in order to terminate a parent’s legal rights to his child, the law requires proof that the parent showed an intent to reject his parental obligations, but it does not necessarily require evidence that the parent willfully disregarded the child’s safety.
S. fathered a child in 2002. In 2010, the child’s mother died. The mother’s parents then went to court seeking to adopt the child. As part of that process, they also asked the court to terminate the father’s parental rights. As part of their termination request, the grandparents argued that the father had abandoned the child, both financially and emotionally.
The trial court held a hearing. At the hearing’s conclusion, the judge ruled that the grandparents had proven that the father indeed had financially and emotionally abandoned his child. Nevertheless, the judge refused to terminate the father’s rights and denied the grandparents’ adoption petition. So, what went wrong? According to the trial court, the law also required the grandparents to prove that the father “willfully disregarded” the child’s safety, and they did not offer evidence on this point.