Florida law makes it clear that children are a priority. The well-being of children and the best interest of children is the guiding standard in all family law decisions where children are involved. The rights of parents are also an important part of Florida family law. A parent’s rights to raise and care for his or her child is fiercely protected. In some cases, however, a parent acts in such a way that it is clear they are unfit for the role of parent in the life of their child. Determining a parent to be unfit is not a decision Florida courts take lightly, but it is all too often one that needs to be made in order to protect a child from harm.
What Is Deemed As an Unfit Parent
Pursuant to Florida Statute 751.05, a parent may be found unfit if he or she abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Abuse includes intentionally inflicting mental or physical harm against a child. It may also include intentional acts reasonably expected to cause mental or physical injury. Additionally, a parent may be deemed abusive if he or she actively encouraged someone else to commit an abusive act against the child.
In the alternative, a parent may be found unfit due to child neglect. Neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide the care and supervision needed to support the mental and physical health of the child. A parent or caregiver may also be found neglectful if he or she failed to take reasonable steps to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by someone else.
Abandonment is also grounds for deeming a parent unfit in Florida. Abandonment of a child means that, despite being able to, a parent made no provision for the child’s support. Furthermore, abandonment of a child means a parent failed to either establish or maintain a substantial, positive relationship with the child. An official charge of child abandonment in Florida is officially known as “unlawful desertion of a child.” This occurs when a caregiver leaves a child in a situation where he or she knew or should have known that leaving would expose the child to risk of harm.
Not mutually exclusive to the above-listed factors, but worth highlighting, is the fact that a Florida court may also deem a parent to be unfit if they have an established history of drug abuse or mental illness. A history of either does not mean that a person lacks the ability to be a good parent. Evidence of either, however, will merit further evaluation by the court. Courts will be hesitant to place a child in a situation where they are in the care of someone who has a history of erratic, dangerous behaviors.
Florida Family Law Attorneys
Being found as an unfit parent in Florida can have serious repercussions. A person can be denied custody and visitation privileges. An unfit parent determination may lead to termination of parental rights. There can also be criminal charges associated with the determination. At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the children. At Orlando Family Team, we are here to represent you as we work to preserve the best interests of your child. Contact us today.