Court Discusses Private Termination of Parental Rights in Florida

In Florida, the courts may deem it necessary to terminate parental rights under specific circumstances outlined in the Florida Statutes. Termination of parental rights is a serious legal action and is considered when it is determined to be in the best interest of the child due to factors that jeopardize the child’s well-being and safety. While generally, the Divison of Children and Families brings actions to terminate parental rights, parents can file termination actions as well, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you need help with a dispute over child custody, it is advisable to confer with a Miami child custody attorney promptly.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the child was born in 2011 to the mother and Father, Venezuelan citizens whose relationship ended before her birth. A Venezuelan court approved a custody arrangement, but in July 2012, the mother brought the child to Miami, prompting the Father to file a Hague Convention petition for the child’s return to Venezuela. The court granted the Father’s petition, and the child returned to Venezuela.

Reportedly,  after the Father’s relocation to the U.S., a second Hague Convention case was initiated by the mother, but the court denied her petition. In 2013, the Father filed a petition for termination of the mother’s parental rights. The court issued a final judgment terminating the mother’s parental rights based on statutory grounds, including abandonment, conduct threatening the child’s well-being, egregious conduct, and conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent. The mother timely appealed.

Termination of Parental Rights Under Florida Law

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.  To terminate parental rights, the court must establish specific statutory grounds. Namely, they must determine that termination serves the “manifest best interest” of the child and ascertain that termination is the least restrictive means to safeguard the child. The court’s findings necessitate support from competent, substantial evidence.

In the subject case, while there were limited facts, the trial court justified the termination based on abandonment, conduct posing a threat to the child’s life, safety, well-being, or health, regardless of services provided, egregious conduct, and conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent. The court affirmed the Father’s establishment of abandonment through competent, substantial evidence, rendering it unnecessary to address the other bases.

Regarding the “least restrictive means” requirement, the court expressed that while the typical approach is to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family, exceptions exist in extraordinary circumstances where the best interest of the child prevails. Notably, such efforts are not mandatory when the underlying allegations include abandonment. Thus, the court upheld the trial court’s decision.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

While the Florida courts typically strive to maintain the parent-child relationship, in some custody cases, it is in the child’s best interest to terminate parental rights. If you want to learn more about what measures you can take to safeguard your parental rights, it is smart to talk to an attorney. The dedicated Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can assess the facts of your case and craft arguments designed to help you seek the best outcome available. You can contact us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to arrange a meeting.