An Introduction to Termination of Parental Rights in Florida
In Florida, a termination of parental rights (TPR) proceeding begins with the filing of a TPR petition to terminate parental rights. This petition must contain allegations that at least one of the grounds listed in Fla. Stat. § 39.806, exists, that termination is in the manifest best interests of the child, and that the TPR is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from harm.
The petition may be filed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, a guardian ad litem, or “any other person who has knowledge of the facts alleged or is informed of them and believes that they are true." Fla. Stat. § 39.802(1).
The most common TPR proceeding involves a post-permanency hearing petition. This occurs when the petition is filed at or after the twelve-month period has expired. Chapter 39 of the Florida statutes does provide for the filing of termination petitions before the twelve month period has expired under several circumstances.
1) If the court determines that the child has been adjudicated dependent, the parent has been offered a case plan with services, and the parent has materially breached the case plan before the time for the compliance expires. In order to prove that the parent has materially breached the case plan, the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unlikely or unable to substantially comply with the case plan before time expires to comply with the case plan. Fla. Stat. § 39.806(1)(e)2.
2) When the parent or parents engaged in conduct toward the child or toward other children that demonstrates that the continuing involvement of the parent or parents in the parent/child relationship threatens the life, safety, well-being, or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child irrespective of the provision of services. Often used with § 39.806(1)(e) you do not need an adjudication of dependency nor do you need to wait the 12 months. Fla. Stat. § 39.806(1)(c).
3) If extraordinary circumstances such as cases involving egregious abuse, a prior involuntary TPR, or incarceration for a substantial portion of the child’s remaining minority a TPR petition can be filed before the 12 month mark. Fla. Stat. § 39.806(1)(d)(f)(i).