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The Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights: When Can the Courts Take a Child Away from a Parent?


It goes without saying that the Florida courts default on giving parental rights and custody of the children to the child’s biological parents. In legal terms, custody is defined as physical residence with a parent and the decision-making power to make decisions on behalf of the children. This decision-making power can include aspects related to the child’s education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Usually, it’s the biological mother and father who have this decision-making power over the child. If a mother is unmarried, the father can become the legal father by filing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity with the court. When it comes to adoption, the court transfers parental rights from the biological parents to the adoptive parents.

Once the court considers you the legal parent of a child, it is difficult for you to lose your parental rights over the child. The court assumes that it is always in the best interests of the children to have both parents take an active role in their lives. Even having a criminal record, a mental health diagnosis, or a current addiction is not enough for the court to revoke a parent’s right to rear their children. The involuntary termination of parental rights only occurs when the court rules that it is impossible for the parent to provide adequate care for the child or when the parent has placed the child in extreme danger.

Legal bases for the termination of parental rights 

To terminate parental rights, the courts must have a strong basis for making the determination that the parent is unfit to raise their children. Below are some cases where the courts may terminate a parent’s parental rights.

  • A long prison sentence – A short prison sentence will not cost a parent their parental rights. The prison sentence must be so long that the child will turn 18 by the time the parent is released. If that is the case, the court may terminate the parent’s parental rights.
  • Breach of case plan – A parent may lose their parental rights if they repeatedly fail to meet the requirements of a case plan set by the Department of Children and Families.
  • Abuse of the child – Allegations of abuse can be grounds to terminate a parent’s parental rights. If the abuse is serious enough, including sexual abuse, only one instance of abuse is enough to terminate the parent’s parental rights.
  • Failure to comply with substance abuse treatment – If a child shows signs of alcohol or illegal drugs in their system upon being born, the court can require the mother to undergo addiction treatment. If the mother fails to comply with the court order for addiction treatment, she can lose her parental rights to the child.
  • Violent sex crimes – If a parent commits a crime that requires them to register as a sex offender, they can lose their parental rights over their children.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Child Custody Attorney Today 

Westchase Law, P.A. represents the interests of parents who are fighting for custody of their children. Call our Tampa, FL family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your next steps right away.

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