What is the Process for Terminating Parental Rights in Tennessee?

Nashville Parental Rights

If you are a parent, just the thought of having your parental rights terminated could be a frightening thing, but in other cases it could be the first step to a whole new life for a child who has not had the love and care they deserve from their birth parents.

Terminating a parent’s rights puts a legal end to the legal relationship between a parent and the child. When parental rights have been terminated successfully, the child can then be adopted and placed in a safe, loving home.

The termination of parental rights can be voluntary — as in the case where a birth mother willingly gives her child up for adoption because she knows that she is not in a position to care for that child. It can also be involuntary, and in those cases the Court rules on whether terminating parental rights is in the best interests if the child, and if there is sufficient evidence to prove that the parent is unfit to be a parent.

The steps for termination of parental rights

The first step is to file a petition that includes the child’s birth name, age and date of birth, their current address or the county of residence if the child is in the custody of the state. That petition will also include:

  • The facts alleging the basis for the termination of parental rights.
  • A verified statement that the putative father registry has been consulted within ten working days of the filing of the petition, whether there is a claim on the registry to the paternity of the child, whether there is any other potential claim to the paternity of the child, and whether any other parental or guardianship rights have been or must be terminated before the child can be made available for adoption.
  • A medical and social history of the child and his or her father (when available), though the absence of such information is not a barrier to termination.

Terminating parental rights completely severs the rights, obligations and responsibilities of the parent or guardian, and after their rights have been terminated, and the parent will have no further notice about the adoption proceedings, or have any kind of legal relationship with the child. When the petition is filed the Court issues a summons to the necessary parties. If a parent whose rights are to be terminated is incarcerated, they must also receive notice of the time and place of the hearing.

  • The Respondent may appear in person at the hearing or file a written answer to the petition.
  • The Court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the child.
  • An adjudicatory hearing on termination will take place.
  • The Court will enter a ruling within 30 days of the hearing.

You can read the entire statute here [statute]

What are some of the common grounds for termination of parental rights?

A parent’s rights are protected by the constitution, so the petitioning party must prove by clear and convincing evidence that terminating the parent’s rights are in the best interest of the child. Some of the more common reasons for parents losing parental rights include:

  • Severe abuse and or neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
  • Long-term drug or alcohol abuse by the parents
  • Being sentenced to incarceration for certain criminal acts

In the case where a child has been removed from their home because it is not a safe place, and another family is ready and willing to adopt them and care for them terminating parental rights is the first step towards adoption.

Termination of your parental rights, whether through your own choice or not, is serious. You’ll want an experienced Franklin family law attorney to answer your questions, fight for your rights, and ensure the best interest of your children. Contact the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, call 615-977-9370, to discuss your needs or use our convenient online form to schedule your free initial consultation. . We maintain offices in Franklin, Columbia and Brentwood for your convenience.

Updated: February 2017