If you are a parent whose rights have been terminated, you may be wondering what you can do. Not having parental rights can be a devastating blow. In most cases, having your parental rights terminated is a severe legal action that is irrevocable and permanent. Once a Florida court terminates a parents’ rights, it is difficult, and in many cases impossible, for parents to obtain those rights again. However, there is always a chance that the termination of parental rights can be reversed through an appeal.
Florida Law Regarding Reinstatement of Parental Rights
Currently, only nine states in the United States have passed legislation explicitly allowing the reinstatement of parental rights. Florida is not one of these states. There is no law providing parents a specific process for reinstating their rights. However, this does not automatically mean that appealing the termination of parental rights is impossible.
Strategies for Reinstating Parental Rights in Florida
In Florida, there are several ways to make a strong case for reinstating your parental rights, including the following options:
Signing a Consent to Surrender Parental Rights
It is important that a parent asked to surrender rights or sign a consent fully understand the documents before signing. Once a parent signs a consent or surrender of parental rights and the document is executed correctly, “undoing” the document is complicated. The parent will need to provide evidence their signature was obtained through fraud or deceit or that the document was otherwise executed in violation of Florida law.
Appealing a Final Judgment Terminating Parental Rights in Florida
The parent can appeal from the final judgment that terminated his or her parental rights. Additionally, if the court issued a separate order of disposition, the parent has a right to appeal based on that order. The order terminating parental rights permanently severing the legal bond between the child and parent. The trial court must find that legally recognized grounds exist for removing the parent’s rights. They will need to prove one of the acceptable grounds for terminating parental rights based on clear and convincing evidence.
The court also must find that the termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child. Determining what is in the best interest of the child requires the court to analyze several different factors. These factors include the parent’s ability to care for the child, any sustainable permanent custody arrangement with a child’s relative, the parent’s ability to care for the child’s safety, well-being, not endanger the child, and more.
Finally, the court must find that the termination of parental rights is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from serious harm. As a result, the department of children and families must prove that they made a good-faith effort to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the parent and child through a case plan for the child.
Appealing the court's decision to terminate parental rights will involve carefully reviewing the trial court record. The parents must find a reversible error that occurred during the trial court proceeding. As with other types of appeals, it is not enough for the parents to disagree with the lower court's factual finding that the parental rights should be terminated. Instead, the parent must show that the court made a legal error made by the trial court judge in violation of Florida law or constitutional law.
Who Can Appeal a Termination of Parental Rights?
Under Florida law, any child, parent, or Guardian Ad Litem of any child or any other party to the preceding affected by the court's order can appeal the decision to the appropriate District Court of Appeal. When someone appeals the Court's order, the state will sign an attorney to represent the Department of Child Services. If your child is awaiting adoption, the adoption process will be suspended until the appeal is decided.
How to Appeal a Non-Final Judgment Terminating Parental Rights
Courts can also issue a non-final order terminating parental rights under Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.279. Parents must appeal a non-final order within 30 days of the order. If a non-final order does not fall within the type of orders described in Rule 9.130, they will not be able to appeal the order. However, the parent may file a petition for writ of certiorari when specific requirements have been met within 30 days of the non-final order being decided. Successfully filing a writ of certiorari is rare, however.
Contact an Experienced Florida Appellate Lawyer Today
If your parental rights have been terminated, it is understandable to experience a wide range of emotions, including hard break and anger. While it is not impossible to have your parental rights reinstated, it is certainly not an easy process in Florida. You need an aggressive, experienced appellate lawyer on your side. Likewise, if you were representing a parent who would like to appeal the termination of parental rights, you will benefit from consulting with an experienced Florida appellate lawyer.
Handling an appellate case involving parental rights in Florida requires a unique skill set. Attorney Donna Solomon of Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration is an award-winning appellate lawyer with extensive experience. She also offers consultative services to other Florida attorneys. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.