Terminating Parental Rights of Incarcerated Father

by Raven from Lakeland, Florida, Polk County

I want to know can parental rights be terminated for a father who has been incarcerated form more than half of my twins' life, without terminating his right to pay child support that he has never paid?

I was 19 when I had my twins and the father went into juvi. From there he was released, but shortly after was incarcerated again under a felony (several felonies).

He was given a 8 year sentence in the state of Florida Correctional Facility. He of course served 80% of that and was released after 5 years. However within a year of being released from prison was put back on house arrest for VOP.

Then he violated again and now he is severing the rest of his 8 year sentence. Now all 8 years of his sentence has been since my twins were born. They will be 10 in Feb, I want to know if the fathers rights can be terminated since he has been in jail for more than half of their lives. He has also only tried to contact them 3 times in their whole life.

Please help, I need as much advice as I can possibly get. I am also trying to file for the the child support that he has never paid in the last 10 years. I need help asap. Thank you so much for your time and advice on this matter.

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Raven,

Generally, parental rights are not terminated unless there is an adoption pending; or the parent has been proven unfit.

Before a court will declare a parent unfit and terminate parental rights, the
court must make every effort to allow that parent to dispute it.

His being incarcerated for most of your children's lives certainly has bearing, and may be considered abandonment.

But, my suggestion is that you consider carefully what is the best course of action for yourself. If his parental rights are terminated, you will likely never receive any child support.

Even if child support was ordered at some point, the fact that he has been in and out of prison all this time, means he did not have the ability to pay. That does not excuse him from paying, since incarceration is voluntary. Yes, voluntary.

The state of Florida takes the position that incarceration is voluntary, because doing a criminal act is voluntary. My suggestion is that you proceed with caution. If you want to pursue child support, go ahead and do so, but prepare yourself. He may then seek to exercise his paternal rights.

You may be able to pursue child support and also request that he have no contact with the children based on his criminal history; or limit his contact with the children to supervised visitation.

Notice: We provide these answers to the general public and our website visitors as a means to further their online legal research. These answers are merely suggestions and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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