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Terminating Parental Rights In Tennessee


When a child is born, the parents of the child automatically vest, or acquire, certain rights over the child. These rights include items such as legal and physical custody of the child. These rights are precious and difficult to lose, but may be relinquished, either voluntarily or involuntarily, if certain conditions are met. This article aims to generally discuss how parental rights may be terminated in the state of Tennessee.

Voluntary Surrender

A parent may decide, for their own reasons, that it is in the best interest of the child if the parent voluntarily relinquishes their parental rights. While this is never an easy decision, some parents feel it is in the best interest of the child, and is often pursued in order to enable another individual to adopt the child.

In order to legally surrender your rights you will need to appear before a judge and sign a voluntary surrender form. An experienced attorney can aid you in filling out the correct forms and standing before a judge in order for them to be properly executed.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Parental rights may also be terminated against the will of the parent if a judge receives sufficient evidence to decide that there is a legal basis for such termination. Before parental rights are terminated the court must hold a trial where you can present your case for why parental rights should not be terminated. You may be represented by an attorney in this trial.

As mentioned above, in order for a judge to determine that parental rights should be terminated they must see clear and convincing evidence that a grounds, or reason, for such termination exists. Grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights in Tennessee include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abandonment

A person’s parental rights may be terminated if that person has failed to visit, engage in more than “token” visitation, or failed to make reasonable child support payments for the four consecutive months immediately prior to the filing of the petition for termination. The court may determine that a biological father abandoned his child if he failed to visit or make reasonable support payments to the child’s mother during the last four months of her pregnancy. A biological mother may be ruled to have abandoned her child if a newborn is left at a medical facility and the mother did not try to contact the infant for more than 89 days.

  • Wanton Disregard

It will be a ground to terminate parental rights if a person who is currently incarcerated “engaged in conduct prior to incarceration” that sufficiently exhibited this wanton disregard.

  • Severe child abuse

Severe child abuse committed against any child is a grounds for the individual to lose their parental rights. A juvenile court may make the ruling that there was severe child abuse, it is not necessary for a criminal court conviction on the matter. If the parent WAS actually charged, convicted, and sentenced to incarceration for greater than two years due to severe abuse of a child then that, in and of itself, is a ground for termination of parental rights.

There are several additional items that may be used as grounds for terminating parental rights, including a ten year prison sentence, certain instances of mental incompetence, failure to assume custody or financial responsibility of the child, and more. If you are facing an issue regarding the termination of parental rights it is important that you speak with a seasoned attorney in order to ensure you understand your rights.

Contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers

Parents will fight for what is best for their children. If you or a loved one is facing the prospect of voluntarily terminating their parental rights, or of having them terminated involuntarily, contact the Franklin family lawyers at Fort, Holloway & Rogers. Our team of expert attorneys can help you ensure you land on the best possible outcome for your family.


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