Court Explains Grounds for Severing Parental Rights in Florida

Typically, the Florida courts attempt to preserve the relationship between children and their parents. They will not do so if it could harm the child, though, and if a court determines that a parent engages in behavior that is detrimental to a child, it may sever the parent’s rights. In a recent ruling, a Florida court explained the grounds for terminating parental rights in a matter in which the mother appealed a trial court’s ruling that her parental rights should be severed.  If you need assistance protecting your parental rights, it is essential to hire a dedicated Cape Coral child custody lawyer to assist you.

The Factual Background

It is alleged that the mother had three children. The father of the two younger children sexually assaulted the oldest child, after which his rights were severed. Further, he was barred from coming within 500 feet of the mother’s house or contacting the children, pursuant to an injunction issued by the trial court.

It is reported that the oldest daughter woke up one evening and found the father attacking the mother. She tried to stop the assault, and the father hit and choked her. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) later determined that the father regularly visited the mother’s home, thereby violating the injunction. As such, DCF argued that the mother engaged in abhorrent conduct and moved to sever the mother’s parental rights. During a hearing on the issue, the mother conceded that she never ended her relationship with the father. Additionally, the evidence showed that he was regularly in the mother’s house. Thus, the court severed the mother’s rights. She then appealed.

Grounds for Severing Parental Rights in Florida

Florida law allows the court to sever a parent’s rights if the court finds that the parent engages in egregious behavior or has the ability and opportunity to prevent egregious behavior that could endanger the welfare, life, or health of the child but neglects to do so. Under Florida law, any behavior that is deplorable, outrageous, or flagrant is deemed egregious, as are acts that constitute abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

The court noted that proof of a link between egregious conduct towards a child and the potential injury to the child’s sibling is not required in order for a court to sever parental rights. Here, the court declined to adopt the mother’s argument that she lost her parental rights due to a single incident, stating that she engaged in a course of behavior that could be considered egregious. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Capable Family Law Attorney

Parenting a child is not a right; instead, it is a privilege, and if a court finds it is warranted, it can sever the parent-child relationship. If you have concerns regarding parental rights or custody, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your options. The capable Cape Coral child custody lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can inform you of your rights and help you to pursue a favorable result. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.








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