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Requirements for the Termination of Parental Rights

The termination of parental rights is a very serious matter, and can be done in only very limited circumstances.  Because Florida courts generally believe that parenting from both parents is in the best interests of the child, to the greatest extent practical, the bar for the termination of parental rights is very high and subject to a myriad of requirements.  Parental rights may be terminated, broadly, in two categories of cases: voluntarily (such as in the case of adoption, in which the adoptive parents cannot assume full parental rights unless the rights of the biological parents have been terminated) and involuntarily (in which the state believes that there is a very good reason to remove a parent’s inherent and legal rights to his or her biological children).  What are the requirements for the termination of parental rights?

For Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Voluntariness

It should go without saying that the voluntary termination of parental rights must include voluntariness on the part of the biological parent whose rights are being terminated.  In cases of adoption, this issue is often not in dispute.

A Written Agreement

For the voluntary termination of parental rights, birth parents terminating their rights must sign a written agreement terminating their parental rights and obligations.  The agreement will spell out each of the requirements for parental conduct going forward and will state the terms of the termination of parental rights.

(Sometimes) A Contact Waiver

In some cases of adoption (such as a closed adoption), biological parents must waive contact with their child and relinquish future access to information regarding where their child will be and what they will be doing.

For Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Egregious Conduct

Terminating the rights of a parent is a last-resort step when there are no other reasonable options available to resolve the family court matter.  It will be done only in the most egregious of circumstances, such as abuse, neglect, substance abuse, severe incompetence, abandonment, domestic violence, violent activity, or incarceration of the parent for a substantial period of the child’s life.

Meeting the Burden

The court must determine by clear and convincing evidence that permitting a child’s contact with his or her parent to continue would be harmful to the child and the termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child.  If this burden is not met, parental rights cannot be terminated.

Both types of terminations of parental rights often also require a permanency plan for the child or children involved; the children, according to a calculated plan, must have somewhere to go (to new adoptive parents, relatives, or the other biological parents).

If you are in any situation involving the termination of your, a partner’s, or an ex’s parental rights, the help of an attorney can ensure that your rights are respected.  At Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, our experienced family law attorneys have experience navigating the voluntary termination of parental rights in cases such as adoption, as well as experience working through involuntary termination and defending parents whose parental rights are in jeopardy due to unjust or untrue accusations. Call 561-391-9943 for a consultation today.

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