Florida Court Discusses Factors Considered in Termination of Parental Rights Hearings

The Florida courts typically strive to protect the parent-child relationship, and will generally attempt to keep the relationship intact. The courts’ main directive in any custody case is determining an outcome that is in the best interest of the child involved, however, and if it requires terminating parental rights, it will. Recently, a Florida court addressed the issue of when the termination of parental rights is appropriate, in a matter in which the father argued that the court could have employed less restrictive means to protect the child’s interests. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is essential that you confer with a Miami child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the trial court held a hearing to determine whether to terminate the father’s parental rights. The court noted that the child was born addicted to amphetamines and had lived with his maternal grandparents since birth. The father was incarcerated and had been since before the child was born and did not know the mother was pregnant prior to the child’s birth. Additionally, he repeatedly questioned whether he was the child’s biological father and suggested that, upon his release in 2025 or 2026, he could do a DNA test to establish if was the child’s father. The court found it in the child’s best interest to terminate the father’s rights. The father appealed.

The Least Restrictive Means Requirement in Termination of Parental Rights Cases

On appeal, the father argued that his due process rights were violated and that the termination of parental rights was not the least restrictive means to protect the child. The appellate court disagreed.

In determining whether the Department of Children and Families has satisfied the least restrictive means requirement, a court must weigh whether the Department could have done anything further to facilitate a safe reunification of the parent and child. The appellate court noted that, because the trial court had found the termination of parental rights and adoption by the maternal grandparents to be in the manifest best interest of the child, a consideration of the least restrictive means was unnecessary.

Additionally, the appellate court explained that the trial court’s determination was supported by the fact that the father never enjoyed a parent-child relationship, and continued to equivocate on his paternity, noting that the least-restrictive-means query does not exist to protect the uncommitted, hesitant, or cagey parent, unsure about whether he wants a relationship with the child at all.

Confer with a Capable Miami Child Custody Attorney

While Florida courts generally employ the least restrictive means necessary to protect a child’s best interests, they will not hesitate to terminate parental rights if it is necessary to protect a child’s best interests. If your parental rights are at stake, you should confer with an attorney to assess your options. your parental rights and obligations, it is advisable to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The capable Miami child custody attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., are proficient at helping parents navigate the complexities of child custody matters, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf.  Our office is in Aventura, and we regularly represent people in family law cases in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.