Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Adoption

Stepparent adoptions in Florida are a way to legalize the bond between a stepparent and a child. Sometimes, a birth parent may have abandoned a child financially or physically, or is otherwise absent. In this case, most times a child is more familiar with a stepparent who has taken on a parental role in the absence of the birth parent. Adopting a child in Florida involves a two-step process, the first of which is to legally terminate the parental rights of the absent parent. A recently published appellate case reviews a trial court’s decision to deny a request to terminate a parent’s rights.

In the case S.B.B. v. J.M.B.-S., 5D18-579 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018), a mother along with her husband, the stepparent in this case, sought to have the husband adopt her child and consequently, terminate the parental rights of the birth father. The record established that the mother obtained an injunction against the birth father in 2012 which granted her sole custody of the parties’ child. The injunction stated the custody ruling could be modified in a paternity action, but the birth father took no action until four years later when he moved to dissolve the injunction. The father’s motion was denied and he was again directed to file a paternity action.

The birth father again took no action, and the mother and her husband filed the petition to adopt and terminate the birth father’s parental rights. The birth father objected and ultimately the court sided with the birth father, refusing to terminate his parental rights and consequently denying the petition for stepparent adoption. The mother and her husband appealed.

In upholding the lower court’s denial of the petition, the appellate court noted that although there was ample evidence to support a termination of the birth father’s rights, without a transcript of the proceedings, the appellate court could not disturb the lower court’s findings, since the lower court was in a better position to assess the totality of circumstances and credibility of the witnesses.

Parental rights are difficult to terminate since the right to be a parent to one’s own child is considered an important right under Florida law. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, or your parental rights are at risk of being terminated, contact a Miami adoption attorney. A consultation may help you decide the best way to proceed.