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Grounds For Terminating Parental Rights


While the Tennessee court presumes that it is in the best interests of a child to have both parents in their life, there are times when it may be necessary to terminate a parent’s rights to their child. Because the court values the parent/child relationship so highly, there are only certain reasons, or grounds, why parental rights can be terminated. If you wish to terminate parental rights or have more questions about when this can occur, talk to the experienced Franklin family law attorneys at Fort, Holloway & Rogers today to schedule a consultation.

Voluntary Surrender

One way to terminate parental rights is with a voluntary surrender. A parent can appear before a judge and willingly terminate their rights to a child. This terminates all duties of child support, but it also eliminates all rights to see or spend time with the child. For parents that are unable to go in person to court because they are incarcerated or for other reasons, arrangements can be made for a virtual court hearing. If a parent does not wish to voluntarily terminate their rights, there are grounds for involuntary termination in Tennessee, as well.

Involuntary Grounds

There are multiple reasons, or grounds, for involuntarily terminating the rights of a parent in Tennessee. The parent requesting the involuntary termination must show by clear and convincing evidence that the grounds have been met, which is why you should always utilize an experienced attorney for the case. The following are allowed as grounds under Tennessee law for involuntary parental termination of rights:

  • Abandonment,
  • Wanton disregard,
  • Failure to provide a suitable home,
  • Substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan,
  • Refusal to remedy conditions that would allow a child’s return,
  • Severe child abuse,
  • A prison sentence of ten years or more,
  • Liability for the death of the other birth parent,
  • Mental incompetence,
  • The child is a product of rape,
  • Severe child sexual abuse,
  • Conviction for sex trafficking,
  • Failure to assume custody or financial responsibility, and
  • As part of the Adoption & Safe Families Act

In addition to meeting one of the grounds for the termination of parental rights, the court must also determine whether the termination is in the best interests of the child. One of the most significant factors is the need for the child to be placed promptly and permanently in a safe environment in addition to the following:

  • The effect of a termination of parental rights on the child’s critical need for stability,
  • The chance the termination is likely to have a negative effect on the child’s emotional, psychological, and medical condition,
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated lack of continuity and stability in meeting the child’s needs,
  • Whether the parent and the child have a secure and healthy parental attachment,
  • Whether the parent has maintained regular visitation or other contact with the child,
  • Whether the child is fearful of living in the parent’s home, and many other factors.

Talk to Our Office

If you wish to learn more about the grounds for terminating parental rights in Tennessee, call or contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers today to schedule a consultation.

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