Usher’s ex-wife recently tried to get primary parental responsibility of their five-year-old son, who almost drowned in Usher’s swimming pool in Atlanta. The court denied the ex-wife’s request, siding with Usher. The Judge ruled that Usher is a good father and that the incident was just an accident that didn’t cause any permanent damage to the child, despite his still being in the hospital at the time of the hearing.
Florida has abolished the system of primary versus secondary custody over a child in a view toward shared parental responsibility and timesharing instead. However, this does not mean that a parent’s rights are absolute. Florida law provides 12 grounds for terminating a parent’s rights, including:
- The parent abandoned the child, or when the identity or location of the parent or parents is unknown and cannot be ascertained by a diligent search within 60 days.
- The parent abused or neglected the child, demonstrating that continued involvement with the child may threaten the child’s life, health (physical, mental or emotional) or safety.
- The parent has been convicted of any of a range of serious felonies, is a repeat offender or is imprisoned for a substantial amount of time during child’s youth.
- The parent has problems with drugs or alcohol.
Evidence of one of these grounds does not mean that parental rights are necessarily going to be terminated—Florida requires a showing of “clear and convincing evidence,” which is lower than the criminal standard of “without a reasonable doubt” but higher than the standard used regularly in civil lawsuits.
If you are in jeopardy of having your parental rights terminated or are seeking to terminate another’s rights, make sure to consult with a Florida family law attorney.