Tampa family law attorneys are often asked about how to terminate parental rights. Florida Statute 39.806 provides the applicable grounds and standards of Florida courts will apply when terminating the rights of an individual. The grounds are as follows:
(A) When the parent or parents have voluntarily executed a written surrender of the child and consented to the entry of an order giving custody of the child to the department for subsequent adoption, and the department’s willing to accept the custody of the child.
(B) Abandonment as defined in section 39.01 subsection 1 or when the identity or location of the parent or parents is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search within 60 days.
(c) When the parent or parents engaged in conduct toward the child or toward other children that demonstrates that the continuing involvement of the parent or parents in the parent-child relationship threatens the life, safety, well-being, or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child irrespective of the provision of services. Provision of services may be evidenced by proof that services were provided through a previous plan or offered as a case plan from a child welfare agency.
(d) When the parent of a child is incarcerated and either:
1. The period of time for which the parent is expected to be incarcerated will constitute a significant portion of the child’s minority. When determining whether the period of time is significant, the court shall consider the child’s age and the child’s need for a permanent and stable home. The period of time begins on the date that the parent enters into incarceration;
2. The incarcerated parent has been determined by the court to be a violent career criminal as defined in s. 775.084, a habitual violent felony offender as defined in s. 775.084, or a sexual predator as defined in s. 775.21; has been convicted of first degree or second degree murder in violation of s. 782.04 or a sexual battery that constitutes a capital, life, or first degree felony violation of s. 794.011; or has been convicted of an offense in another jurisdiction which is substantially similar to one of the offenses listed in this paragraph. As used in this section, the term “substantially similar offense” means any offense that is substantially similar in elements and penalties to one of those listed in this subparagraph, and that is in violation of a law of any other jurisdiction, whether that of another state, the District of Columbia, the United States or any possession or territory thereof, or any foreign jurisdiction; or
3. The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that continuing the parental relationship with the incarcerated parent would be harmful to the child and, for this reason, that termination of the parental rights of the incarcerated parent is in the best interest of the child. When determining harm, the court shall consider the following factors:
a. The age of the child.
b. The relationship between the child and the parent.
c. The nature of the parent’s current and past provision for the child’s developmental, cognitive, psychological, and physical needs.
d. The parent’s history of criminal behavior, which may include the frequency of incarceration and the unavailability of the parent to the child due to incarceration.
e. Any other factor the court deems relevant.
(e) When a child has been adjudicated dependent, a case plan has been filed with the court, and:
1. The child continues to be abused, neglected, or abandoned by the parent or parents. The failure of the parent or parents to substantially comply with the case plan for a period of 12 months after an adjudication of the child as a dependent child or the child’s placement into shelter care, whichever occurs first, constitutes evidence of continuing abuse, neglect, or abandonment unless the failure to substantially comply with the case plan was due to the parent’s lack of financial resources or to the failure of the department to make reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child. The 12-month period begins to run only after the child’s placement into shelter care or the entry of a disposition order placing the custody of the child with the department or a person other than the parent and the court’s approval of a case plan having the goal of reunification with the parent, whichever occurs first; or
2. The parent or parents have materially breached the case plan. Time is of the essence for permanency of children in the dependency system. In order to prove the parent or parents have materially breached the case plan, the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the parent or parents are unlikely or unable to substantially comply with the case plan before time to comply with the case plan expires.
3. The child has been in care for any 12 of the last 22 months and the parents have not substantially complied with the case plan so as to permit reunification under Florida Statute Section 39.522(2) unless the failure to substantially comply with the case plan was due to the parent’s lack of financial resources or to the failure of the department to make reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child.
(f) The parent or parents engaged in egregious conduct or had the opportunity and capability to prevent and knowingly failed to prevent egregious conduct that threatens the life, safety, or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child or the child’s sibling. Proof of a nexus between egregious conduct to a child and the potential harm to the child’s sibling is not required.
1. As used in this subsection, the term “sibling” means another child who resides with or is cared for by the parent or parents regardless of whether the child is related legally or by consanguinity.
2. As used in this subsection, the term “egregious conduct” means abuse, abandonment, neglect, or any other conduct that is deplorable, flagrant, or outrageous by a normal standard of conduct. Egregious conduct may include an act or omission that occurred only once but was of such intensity, magnitude, or severity as to endanger the life of the child.
(g) The parent or parents have subjected the child or another child to aggravated child abuse as defined in Florida Statute Section 827.03, sexual battery or sexual abuse as defined in Florida Statute Section 39.01, or chronic abuse.
(h) The parent or parents have committed the murder, manslaughter, aiding or abetting the murder, or conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent or another child, or a felony battery that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child. Proof of a nexus between the murder, manslaughter, aiding or abetting the murder, or conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent or another child, or a felony battery to a child and the potential harm to a child or another child is not required.
(i) The parental rights of the parent to a sibling of the child have been terminated involuntarily.
(j) The parent or parents have a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of alcohol or a controlled substance which renders them incapable of caring for the child, and have refused or failed to complete available treatment for such use during the 3-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights.
(k) A test administered at birth that indicated that the child’s blood, urine, or meconium contained any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance or metabolites of such substances, the presence of which was not the result of medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant, and the biological mother of the child is the biological mother of at least one other child who was adjudicated dependent after a finding of harm to the child’s health or welfare due to exposure to a controlled substance or alcohol as defined in s. 39.01, after which the biological mother had the opportunity to participate in substance abuse treatment.
(l) On three or more occasions the child or another child of the parent or parents has been placed in out-of-home care pursuant to this chapter, and the conditions that led to the child’s out-of-home placement were caused by the parent or parents.
(m) The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of an act of sexual battery made unlawful pursuant to Florida Statute Section 794.011, or pursuant to a similar law of another state, territory, possession, or Native American tribe where the offense occurred. It is presumed that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child if the child was conceived as a result of the unlawful sexual battery. A petition for termination of parental rights under this paragraph may be filed at any time. The court must accept a guilty plea or conviction of unlawful sexual battery pursuant to Florida Statute Section 794.011 as conclusive proof that the child was conceived by a violation of criminal law as set forth in this subsection.
(n) The parent is convicted of an offense that requires the parent to register as a sexual predator under Florida Statute Section 775.21.
As you can see obviously, the grounds to terminate the parental rights are incredibly difficult to achieve or prove. The most common means to terminating parental rights involves the stipulation of the parties. As you can see by the requirement of the statute the terms to complete such a stipulation are actually somewhat difficult and courts are quite hesitant to terminate parental rights. Generally, family law judges in the Tampa Bay area will require another parent to be present to be financially and emotionally responsible for the minor child, generally this is accomplished by adoption. Without another party being willing to step up and adopt the minor child, courts will generally disapprove of a voluntary termination of parental rights in Florida.
If you have questions concerning a Tampa family law issue or the termination of parental rights, contact the Tampa family law attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free consultation. We will sit down and work with you to determine an aggressive and effective case plan to protect your rights and interests in your family law case. If you’d like to contact one of our Tampa family law attorneys immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website. We appreciate you taking the time to check out our blog and look forward to working with you.