Florida court clarifies the standard for the termination of parental rights due to abandonment under
On August 27, 2014, the 4th DCA issued an opinion clarifying the standard for the termination of parental rights due to abandonment in Florida. The appellate Court found that there is no required finding that the parent exhibited a willful disregard for the child’s safety prior to terminating their parental rights for abandonment. A showing of neglect of the child and disregard of their parental responsibilities is enough to win a petition to terminate of a parent’s parental rights pending an adoption.
In V.C.B and E.G.B v. Sultan Shakir, the mother died and the maternal grandparents brought an action to terminate the father’s parental rights and to adopt the child. The petition sought termination of parental rights on the basis that the father abandoned the child. The trial court heard the evidence and determined that the father had indeed abandoned the minor child pursuant to the statutory definition but that his rights could not be terminated because there was no showing that the father willfully disregarded the minor child’s safety.
Chapter 63, Florida Statutes, allows a petitioner, who is a relative of the child to seek termination of parental rights and adopt the child. A judge is able to terminate a parent’s parental rights where it is determined that the parent had full notice of the proceedings and that the parent “abandoned” the child pursuant to the Statute. Section 63.032(1) defines “abandoned” as a situation in which the parent… while being able, make little or no provision for the child’s support or makes little or no effort to communicate with the child, which situation is sufficient to evince an intent to reject parental responsibilities. The efforts to communicate or support the child cannot be marginal.
The trial Judge ruled that it was necessary to also find that the parent’s actions demonstrated a willful disregard for the safety or welfare of the child pursuant to Section 63.089(4). However the Appellate Court clarified that whether the harm done by the parent demonstrated a willful disregard for the safety or welfare of the child is a factor to be considered in determining whether the parent abandoned the child and not an additional requirement.
Family court judges should grant petitions to terminate a parent’s parental rights pending an adoption where clear and convincing evidence shows that the parent was able to but made no provision for the child’s support, made little or no effort to communicate with the child, and rejected their parental responsibilities. The petition may be approved absent this showing where the parent consents to the termination of their rights and the adoption of the child.