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By Michael Tupper
Attorney at Law

Parental rights are considered a fundamental right of people, whether they are the biological parent of a minor child or have adopted one. Our ability to have a say in the decisions that affect our children, such as schooling, medical care and religious education, are key ones for any parent. In addition, we have the right to spend time with our children, even if we have lost physical custody to them in the course of a divorce proceeding. This is why it is so important to understand the legal grounds here in Florida that can lead to a parent losing his or her parental rights to one or more minor children. If you are facing the termination of your parental rights, an experienced Florida family law attorney can help you defend your rights.

Voluntary Loss of Parental Rights

While this may come as a surprise to some parents, there are situations when a parent may voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. This is most common when a parent decides that he or she is not capable of caring for the child, so the child is put up for adoption. This requires that a parent complete a written surrender form.

Another way that a parent may terminate his or her parental rights voluntarily is by abandonment. This can occur when a parent does not establish a relationship with the child or contribute to the child’s needs, usually in a financial manner. It can also happen if the parent leaves the child with another relative and disappears for a period of at least 60 days. 

Mistreatment of the Child

Probably the most common way of losing parental rights is by engaging in conduct that is abusive or neglectful of the child. The State of Florida has a vested interest in making sure that parents do not mistreat their minor children. In most cases, an isolated incident will not in and of itself lead to the termination of parental rights. The court will look to see if there is a pattern of abuse that represents a continuing threat to the physical, emotional, or psychological health of the child. However, in some cases, a single abusive incident may be so egregious that the court will decide that terminating parental rights is in the best interests of the child.

If a parent abuses another child in the household, this can be used as grounds to terminate parental rights. This is often defined as “egregious conduct” under the law, and shows that the minor child is living in an abusive household. The court is also trying to protect the child from the type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse his or her sibling has endured at the hands of the parent. Moreover, if the parent has had his or her parental rights terminated involuntarily for a sibling, this can provide grounds to terminate them for the child in question.

Substance Abuse 

A parent with chronic abuse of alcohol or a controlled substance can be deemed to be incapable of caring for the minor child. In this situation, the addiction will have to last for a minimum of three years before parental rights will be terminated. In addition, failure or refusal to complete a substance abuse program will be taken into consideration in deciding whether to terminate parental rights. 

If a baby tests positive for alcohol or a controlled substance at birth, then the birth mother may face termination of parental rights. This will often happen when a court has already ruled another minor child of the mother is a dependent of the state based on the mother’s egregious conduct. If this is the first time this has occurred, the court will often give the mother the opportunity to complete a substance abuse treatment program to avoid termination of rights.

Criminal Conduct

Being convicted of a felony does not automatically terminate parental rights. Instead, the court will look at a number of factors. First, it will look at the specific criminal conviction to determine if it is violent in nature. Murder, attempted murder, or assault of another child can provide grounds for termination, as will being placed on a sexual predator registry. Second, the court will look at the period of incarceration. If it constitutes a substantial portion of the child’s years before reaching the age of maturity, this could factor into a termination of parental rights. Finally, the court will look at the best interests of the child to determine if continuing the parental relationship with the incarcerated parent will be detrimental to the child’s welfare.

Our Firm Can Help You if You Are Facing the Termination of Your Parental Rights in Jacksonville, FL

Having a relationship with your child is one of the key parts of parenting. This is why the courts look upon this as a fundamental individual right. Losing your parental rights can harm your relationship with your minor child. If you are facing this situation, the experienced family law attorneys at Tupper Law, P.A. can assist you in protecting your parental rights. Contact our office today.

About the Author
Michael Tupper is an experienced and skilled attorney from Jacksonville, FL, and is the driving force behind Tupper Law P.A. With an illustrious career spanning several years, he has established himself as a reliable and skilled legal advisor and representative across various disciplines. Having obtained his license to practice law in the State of Florida in 2004, Michael has consistently catered to the legal needs of Northeast Florida, encompassing Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. His unwavering commitment to delivering timely, personalized, and proficient services reflects his dedication to providing the highest level of professional assistance.