Giving Up Father's Parental Rights in Florida
By Joseph Nicholson
Updated December 20, 2018
The state of Florida does not terminate parental rights lightly. Typically, it will only do so if the child is committed to the care of a state agency and put up for adoption. The court will not allow a father to simply give up their parental rights without good reason if the child is to remain with the mother or family. The laws concerning termination of parental rights are contained in Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes.
Identify a Valid Legal Reason
Identify a statutory ground for terminating your rights as a father. Florida statutes list several reasons a father can lose his parental rights. These are if the father's identity is unknown, if the father was a single-parent and adopted the child, if protection of the child demands termination of the father's rights, if there is no other parent besides the father, if the father is incarcerated for violent crimes or expected to be incarcerated through the child's 18th birthday, if the father has abused the child or another child, or if the father has been convicted of a violent crime against the other parent, the child or another child of the other parent.
Get Some Legal Advice
After a child is adopted, there's nothing you can do to reverse the situation and get your parental rights back. It may be possible to petition the court for restoration of your parental rights in other situations, but it is extremely difficult to get the rights back after you've surrendered them. Be sure to talk to an attorney, a law clinic, a social worker and a counselor to make sure you understand what you're giving up before you take this step.
Sign a Voluntary Surrender Agreement
By law, a father can voluntarily surrender parental rights by executing a document to that effect before two witnesses and a notary public. The document should give consent to a court order terminating parental rights in the father. If the child is to remain with the mother, however, the surrender will not take effect until a state court finds a legal reason why the father should lose parental rights.
Petition the Court
Complete and file the petition for termination of parental rights with the juvenile division of your local state court. Either you or the child's mother or guardian can submit the petition to the local state courthouse. The petition is a formal request that your parental rights be terminated by the court. A petition form can be obtained at the courthouse. Include a copy of the voluntary surrender document with the petition. The voluntary surrender described is sufficient to give up a father's parental rights if it is signed by both parents, or there is no mother and the Florida Department of Children and Families is willing to take custody of the child.
Serve the Petition
A copy of the petition and the court summons issued by the clerk must be served to both parents, and any guardian caring for the child. This is usually done by either the county sheriff, or a private process server.
Attend an Advisory Hearing
The clerk will schedule an advisory hearing on termination of parental rights to occur within 21 days of the petition being filed. Legal counsel for the parents and a separate counsel for the child will be appointed by the court if necessary. At the hearing, evidence should be presented proving that you satisfy at least one of the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights.
Attend the Adjudicatory Hearing
Within 45 days of the advisory hearing, the court will conduct an adjudicatory hearing at which it will be decided whether or not to terminate your parental rights.
- The voluntary surrender described is sufficient to give up a father's parental rights if it is signed by both parents, or there is no mother and the Florida Department of Children and Families is willing to take custody of the child.
Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.