What is the Process for Terminating Parental Rights in Tennessee?

Parental rights or responsibility in Tennessee can usually only be terminated by the state’s courts. This commonly occurs if your child is adopted or if either parent’s behavior warrants the removal of their parental responsibility. Also, parental responsibility usually cannot be removed from your child’s biological mother unless your child is adopted, and it is even more challenging to be removed from the father.

For most parents, just the thought of having your parental rights terminated is a frightening and highly emotional subject. Still, in these legal cases, it could be the first step to a whole new life for your child whose birth parent (or parents) have not given them the necessary care and love.

Terminating your parent’s rights effectively and legally ends the relationship between a parent and their child. If the parental rights have been terminated successfully, the child can be adopted or placed in a safe, caring environment. As you imagine, this legal process can be complex and emotional, but there are specific legal steps to follow for it to be legal and accomplished.

The initial step is having your professional and experienced Nashville family law firm file a petition that includes the child’s birth name, age, date of birth, address, or the county of residence if the child is in the custody of the state.

This petition must also include:

  • Any and all facts providing specific reasons for the termination of parental rights.
  • A verified statement that the child’s putative father registry has been consulted within ten working days of filing the petition. If there is a valid claim on the registry regarding the child’s paternity or whether there may be other potential claims to the child’s paternity, then these must be addressed before the child can be made available for adoption.
  • The child’s and their father’s complete medical and social history (if available) must be known. However, the absence of this information is not always a barrier to termination.

After the petition is filed with the court, a summons is issued to all involved parties. Even if a parent whose rights are to be terminated is incarcerated, they still must receive notice of the time and place of the hearing.

This entire process can be legally immensely complex and filled with emotion and stress. Also, each case is different; you must get it right the first time. Consulting with a Nashville child custody attorney experienced in the parental rights termination process is mandatory.

What Are Some Common Reasons For Petitioning for the Termination of Parental Rights?

As a parent, your rights are protected by the constitution, so the petitioning party must prove by clear, factual, and convincing evidence that terminating your parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

There are many more, but the following are a few common reasons for parents losing their parental rights; they include:

  • Severe abuse or neglect of the child.
  • Any type of sexual abuse.
  • Abandonment of the child.
  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child.
  • Intense or lengthy drug or alcohol abuse by the parent(s).
  • Being sentenced to prison for specific criminal acts.

If 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.

It’s wise to realize that termination of any parents’ rights, whether your own choice or not, is profoundly serious. Consult with an experienced Nashville family law attorney as they will address all your concerns and aggressively fight for your rights and the child’s rights and best interests.

Can a Parent Voluntarily Terminate Their Parental Rights?

The simple answer is yes, they can, and there are several ways for the parent to terminate their parental rights under Tennessee statutes voluntarily.

Some are:

  • Parental Consent – Parental consent is commonly available on the fourth day after the child is born. However, consent may be revoked until the Court confirms it. Parental consent may be handled differently depending on the specifics of the situation.
  • Surrender – Surrender of a parent’s rights requires that the Department of Children’s Services, a licensed adoption agency, or the prospective adoptive parent(s) take possession of the child. This is also a severe and usually traumatic event, and the surrendering parent is entitled to legal representation and psychological counseling.
  • Waiver of Interest – A “waiver of interest” is only generally available to a father who is not the child’s legal father and is not listed on the birth certificate. It can be executed at any time, even during pregnancy. A waiver of interest may not require a court appearance but cannot be revoked.

There are more reasons, and your case is unique. Your family law team will analyze your case and will always professionally, empathetically, and thoroughly review all the legal options at your disposal.

How Long Does This Process Usually Take in Tennessee?

Usually, in these cases, legal preparation is often the longest part of the process. Remember, legal guidelines must be met and rules to diligently follow.

However, after the “petition” is filed, all parties commonly appear in person at the hearing, or their family lawyer files a written answer to it. The Tennessee court will typically appoint a “Guardian Ad Litem” for the child.

After this proceeding, and if all is in order, an adjudicatory hearing on termination will take place, and the court will usually enter a ruling within 30 days of the hearing.

Again, this is an extraordinarily complex and volatile situation best managed by a Nashville family law attorney.

I Feel I Have To Terminate Parental Rights; How Do I Proceed?

Terminating parental rights is one of the most severe legal actions you may ever be involved with. Before taking any steps, make sure you know the guidelines and legal options open to you. Your Nashville family law team will discuss your questions concerning the termination of parental rights, and their advice will be invaluable.