Terminating Parental Rights
Parents have certain legal rights when it comes to their children, including the right to visitation. Being a parent, however, also comes with significant legal obligations, including the duty to provide financially for their child. These rights and obligations can’t be violated, but it is possible to void them completely by terminating parental rights. However, terminating someone’s parental rights is a complex and sensitive process and courts are generally unwilling to grant such requests unless certain requirements are met. For a better understanding of these proceedings, including how to initiate or defend yourself against a termination petition, please reach out to an experienced Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer today.
When Can Parental Rights be Terminated?
Terminating parental rights is only allowed in certain situations, including when:
- A parent has voluntarily chosen to do so;
- A parent has abandoned the child;
- A parent has engaged in conduct that threatens the life, safety, or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child;
- A parent is incarcerated;
- The state has adjudicated the child as dependent and the case plan has been violated;
- A parent has committed sexual or physical abuse;
- A parent has a substance abuse problem; or
- A parent’s parental rights (over another child) have been previously terminated.
It is only in these situations that a person can proceed with termination proceedings, the first step of which is to file a petition with the court.
Termination of Parental Rights Hearing
Upon filing and serving a petition to terminate parental rights, the court will schedule and hold a hearing. Unlike many legal proceedings, Termination of Parental Rights Hearings are closed, which means that only the parties involved, as well as their legal counsel, can be present. During the hearing, the court will receive evidence and testimony regarding the request for termination. This evidence can usually be divided into two broad categories:
- The testimony of witnesses, family members, teachers, case workers, doctors, and experts; and
- Physical evidence, such as photos, reports, criminal records, and text messages.
Once this evidence has been presented, a judge will be tasked with determining whether there is clear and convincing evidence that a parent’s rights should be terminated and whether termination would be in a child’s best interests. In some cases, when a child is deemed of appropriate age and maturity, the judge may even take a child’s opinion into account when making this decision.
Meet with an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Child Custody Lawyer
If your parental rights are in danger or you have questions about terminating the rights of a child’s guardian, you may need the advice and assistance of a dedicated attorney who can ensure that your interests and the interests of the child are protected. For help, please reach out to experienced child custody lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. by calling our office at 954-945-7591 and setting up a free consultation with a member of our legal team. You can also get in touch with us by completing and submitting one of our standard online contact forms.