This is the next post in a series of articles about terminating parental rights in Melbourne, Florida. In our previous article, we discussed the legal process to terminate the rights of a parent. We also stressed the importance of consulting with knowledgeable counsel to help navigate the system. Given the permanence of a termination ruling and potential impact on the parent and child involved, Florida courts require a high level of proof that the parent’s behavior poses a threat of harm to the child. In this article, we will discuss the importance of discovery, the legal process for gathering evidence, in a termination case. If you need assistance with a child custody matter, contact our office today to speak with an attorney.
In order to terminate a parent’s rights to their child, a Florida judge will require the party seeking termination to prove by clear and convincing evidence that exposure to the parent has been or may be harmful to the child. This standard can be difficult to meet. A court will meticulously review the evidence presented in support of the termination argument for the protection of the parent and child’s rights. A parent seeking termination must, therefore, present the court with as much objective evidence as possible. Through the discovery process, the parties to the case may gather information from the other side. Using discovery, one’s attorney can depose witnesses, request subpoenas for phone, medical or other records, etc. to demonstrate to a judge that the parent’s rights should be terminated.
Under certain circumstances, it may be easier to demonstrate to the court that the parent poses a threat of imminent harm to the child. For example, if the parent has been criminally convicted of sexual abuse then police statements, court documents, and conviction information may be substantial enough to warrant termination. In other situations, however, one may be required to provide further objective evidence. Consider the following example. A father had previously been granted only supervised visitation following an arrest for drug use. After a period of counseling and other rehabilitation, the father, was granted unsupervised visitation. Within a few months, the father began sending threatening text messages to the mother. Neighbors witnessed the father screaming at the mother on various occasions when she picked the child up. During one incident, the neighbors called the police. When they arrived, they found the mother grievously injured and the father using the child as a human shield. Through the discovery process, the mother’s attorney may subpoena the text and phone records, police reports, and neighbor testimony. A judge may determine that the evidence presented is substantial enough to terminate the father’s parental rights. It is important to note that each decision will be based on the specific facts of each situation.
For obvious reasons, protecting one’s child is of the utmost importance. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, contact law enforcement. If you are considering seeking termination of a parent’s rights, it is imperative to retain an attorney with experience in these matters to represent your interests. Contact us today to speak with a Melbourne, Florida family lawyer. Our office is also dedicated to representing 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.