Florida Court Discusses Termination of Parental Rights

Florida courts generally find that it is in a child’s best interest to maintain connections with both parents and are reluctant to sever the parent-child relationship. While the courts will usually determine if there are other, less restrictive, means of protecting a child prior to terminating parental rights, such an analysis is not always required. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion in which the appellate court reversed a trial court order denying a motion to sever the parental relationship on the grounds that the father engaged in egregious conduct. If you have questions about your parental rights or the rights of your co-parent, it is smart to meet with a Florida child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

The Subject Case

It is reported that the mother and father shared custody of their minor children pursuant to a time-sharing agreement. The mother and her boyfriend drove to the father’s house to pick up the children, but the father refused to let them go. Then, in front of the children, he threatened to shoot the mother in the face if she took them. The mother loaded the children into her boyfriend’s truck. The boyfriend began driving away, and the father went into his house.

Allegedly, the father then returned with a gun and began shooting at the truck. One of the bullets hit the boyfriend in the back of his head, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and drive into a ditch. The mother suffered injuries in the crash, and one of the children suffered cuts when bullets shattered the truck’s windows. The father was ultimately arrested and charged with attempted murder, and the mother filed a petition to terminate his parental rights. The trial court denied the petition, and the mother appealed.

Factors Assessed in Determining Whether to Terminate Parental Rights

On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court erred in denying her petition on the grounds that she failed to produce evidence demonstrating that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting the children. The appellate court agreed and reversed the trial court ruling. Specifically, the court stated that when a termination of parental rights petition relies on section 39.806(1)(f) as its grounds for seeking termination, and that basis is proven via clear and convincing evidence, the party seeking termination does not have to prove it is the least restrictive means. Thus, as the mother argued, the father’s rights should be terminated under 39.806(1)(f), which states that engaging in egregious conduct that threatens the life or health of a child is grounds for termination, the trial court’s denial was improper.

Speak to a Trusted Miami Family Law Attorney

When dealing with custody disputes, the courts are obliged to rule in the best interest of the children involved, which in some cases requires terminating parental rights. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your options. The trusted Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., are adept at helping people fight to protect their rights, and if you hire us, we can help you to seek the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in custody cases in Miami. You can contact us via our form online or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.




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