Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Tennessee

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-101(d)

In all cases, when the best interests of the child and those of the adults are in conflict, such conflict shall always be resolved to favor the rights and the best interests of the child, which interests are hereby recognized as constitutionally protected, and, to that end, this part shall be liberally construed.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-113(i)

In determining whether termination of parental or guardianship rights is in the best interests of the child, the court shall consider all relevant and child-centered factors applicable to the particular case before the court. Those factors may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The effect a termination of parental rights will have on the child's critical need for stability and continuity of placement throughout the child's minority
  • The effect a change of caregivers and physical environment is likely to have on the child's emotional, psychological, and medical condition
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated continuity and stability in meeting the child's basic material, educational, housing, and safety needs
  • Whether the parent and child have a secure and healthy parental attachment, and if not, whether there is a reasonable expectation that the parent can create such attachment
  • Whether the parent has maintained regular visits or other contact with the child and used the visits or other contact to cultivate a positive relationship with the child
  • Whether the child is fearful of living in the parent's home
  • Whether the parent, parent's home, or others in the parent's household trigger or exacerbate the child's experience of trauma or posttraumatic symptoms
  • Whether the child has created a healthy parental attachment with another person or persons in the absence of the parent
  • Whether the child has emotionally significant relationships with persons other than parents and caregivers, including biological or foster siblings, and the likely impact of various available outcomes on these relationships and the child's access to information about the child's heritage
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated such a lasting adjustment of circumstances, conduct, or conditions to make it safe and beneficial for the child to be in the home of the parent, including consideration of whether there is criminal activity in the home or by the parent, or the use of alcohol or controlled substances that may render the parent unable to consistently care for the child in a safe and stable manner
  • Whether the parent has taken advantage of available programs, services, or community resources to assist in making a lasting adjustment of circumstances, conduct, or conditions
  • Whether the Department of Children's Services has made reasonable efforts to assist the parent in making a lasting adjustment in cases in which the child is in the custody of the department
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated a sense of urgency in establishing paternity of the child; seeking custody of the child; or addressing the circumstance, conduct, or conditions that made an award of custody unsafe and not in the child's best interests
  • Whether the parent, or other person residing with or frequenting the home of the parent, has shown brutality or physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse or neglect toward the child or any other child or adult
  • Whether the parent has ever provided safe and stable care for the child or any other child
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated an understanding of the basic and specific needs required for the child to thrive
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated the ability and commitment to creating and maintaining a home that meets the child's basic and specific needs and in which the child can thrive
  • Whether the physical environment of the parent's home is healthy and safe for the child
  • Whether the parent has consistently provided more than token financial support for the child
  • Whether the mental or emotional fitness of the parent would be detrimental to the child or prevent the parent from consistently and effectively providing safe and stable care and supervision of the child

Other Considerations

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.