This is the next post in a series of articles addressing the termination of parental rights in Melbourne, Florida. The previous post focused on the extreme situations which could result in the termination of one’s parental rights. Given the seriousness of a termination decision, Florida law requires clear and convincing evidence of the risk to the child’s well-being before revoking a parent’s rights. In this article, we will provide an overview of the legal process one must follow when seeking a parental rights termination. This issue can be emotional for all of the parties involved and can become contentious. Therefore, it is important to retain an experienced attorney to represent your interests throughout the process. If you or a loved one need assistance with a child custody matter, contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
When a parent believes that the rights of their child’s other parent should be terminated due to extreme egregious conduct, the first step in the process is to file a Petition For Termination of Parental Rights with the court. The Petition should include the reasons the petitioner is requesting the termination of rights. As we discussed in the previous post, Florida law sets forth the grounds upon which one may seek to terminate the other parent’s rights. The document should refer to specific, objective facts that support the request. Florida law requires that several people receive notice of the Petition. This includes the parents, another living relative if the parents are deceased or unknown, persons who have physical custody of the child, prospective adoptive parents or grandparents or court appointed guardians.
As soon as possible after all of the necessary parties have received notice of the Petition, the court will schedule an advisory hearing. All interested parties will attend this hearing at which the judge will explain each party’s legal rights, appoint counsel as needed and schedule the adjudicatory hearing. This final hearing will be a bench trial (heard by a judge without a jury) and will take place within 45 days after the advisory hearing. The various interested parties may gather evidence through the discovery process to be presented to the court at the hearing. Evidence such as witness statements, medical or personal records, phone or text messages, etc. may be obtained through this process. At the adjudicatory hearing, parties will have the opportunity to present their evidence to the judge in support of or refuting the allegations. The judge may issue a decision immediately or require additional time to deliberate depending upon the facts of the specific case. The parties will be informed of the judge’s final decision.
Given the complexities involved when seeking a termination of parental rights, we cannot overemphasize the importance of retaining a lawyer with experience in child custody and family law matters. Contact our firm today to speak with a Melbourne, Florida family lawyer. Our office also serves clients in the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.