In the United States, we have well-established laws that are designed to protect a biological parent’s right to raise their child with minimal government intrusion. However, it’s vital to note that our laws prioritize the best interest of the child above a parent’s right to bring up their child as they see fit and, therefore, allow a parent’s legal rights to be terminated under some circumstances.
More specifically, Tennessee law allows a parent’s rights to be terminated if: (1) the grounds for termination have been established by clear and convincing evidence, and (2) terminating the parent’s rights is in the best interest of the child. Tennessee Code section 36-1-113.
This area of the law can be a bit confusing, so we have answered some frequently asked questions about terminating a parent’s rights to help shed some light on this complicated topic. However, please keep in mind that the answers provided below only apply in Tennessee, as each state takes a slightly different approach to terminating parental rights, and that for case-specific questions it is essential that you consult directly with a local family law attorney.
When a parent’s rights to a child are terminated, the legal relationship between the parent and child is ended. This termination can take place either voluntarily or involuntarily. For example, a parent can voluntarily terminate their parental rights and give their child up for adoption. On the other hand, the court can determine that a parent is unfit to parent a child and involuntarily terminate the parent’s legal rights.
In Tennessee, termination of a parent’s rights can be based on any of the following grounds:
It’s crucial to note that this list is not exhaustive and that under some circumstances there are additional grounds on which a Tennessee court can terminate a parent’s rights. However, the grounds for termination listed above and the most frequently cited in Tennessee.
When most people hear the term child abandonment, they think of a parent dropping their baby off on someone’s front stoop and physically leaving the child. While the legal definition of child abandonment in Tennessee does encompass this type of physical abandonment, you may be surprised to learn that it also includes other forms as well.
For example, a parent who willfully fails to visit their child or make reasonable child support payments will sometimes be deemed to have legally abandoned their child. For the precise legal definition of abandonment under Tennessee law check out code section 36-1-102.
When a Tennessee court is determining whether or not terminating a parent’s rights would be in the best interest of the child, it considers whether:
Alongside the considerations listed above, the court can also weigh other pertinent information when determining whether or not terminating the parent’s rights would be in the child’s best interest.
Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, offers legal support for families in Memphis, Tennessee, and the surrounding area. If you have questions concerning the termination of a parent’s rights, legally adopting a child, or any other family law matter, our team will be happy to assist you.
Every client’s situation is unique, so to give the best legal advice possible, we like to first meet with a potential new client during a confidential consultation. During this face-to-face meeting, we will review the facts of your specific case and explain what your legal rights and options are given the circumstances. To schedule an appointment, give our Memphis office a call today at (901) 562-3605.