Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Tennessee

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-113

Termination of parental rights must be based upon the following:

  • A finding by the court by clear and convincing evidence that the grounds for termination of parental or guardianship rights have been established.
  • The termination of the parent's rights is in the best interests of the child.

Termination of parental rights may be based upon any of the following grounds:

  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The parent has failed to comply with the permanency plan.
  • The child has been removed from the home of the parent for 6 months, and the following apply:
    • The conditions that led to the child's removal still persist.
    • There is little likelihood that these conditions will be remedied in the near future so that the child can safely return home.
    • The continuation of the parent-child relationship greatly diminishes the child's chances of early integration into a safe, stable, and permanent home.
  • The parent has been found to have committed severe child abuse against any child.
  • The parent has been sentenced to more than 2 years' imprisonment for committing severe child abuse.
  • The parent has been incarcerated for 10 or more years, and the child is under age 8 at the time.
  • The parent has been convicted or found civilly liable for the intentional and wrongful death of the child's other parent.
  • The parent has been found to be mentally incompetent to provide for the further care and supervision of the child.
  • A putative father of the child has failed to do the following:
    • To make reasonable and consistent payments for the support of the child
    • To seek reasonable visitation with the child or has failed to visit altogether or has engaged in only token visitation
    • To manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the child
    • To file a petition to establish paternity of the child within 30 days after notice of alleged paternity
  • Placing custody of the child in the parent's legal and physical custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the physical or psychological welfare of the child.
  • The parent was convicted of rape from which the child was conceived.
  • The parent has done any of the following:
    • Committed murder or manslaughter of any sibling or half-sibling of the child
    • Aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such murder or a voluntary manslaughter
    • Attempted murder of the child's other parent
    • Committed a felony assault that has resulted in serious bodily injury or severe child abuse to the child or any sibling or half-sibling
    • Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion
  • The parent has been found to have committed severe child sexual abuse. The term 'severe child sexual abuse' includes any of the following offenses toward a child:
    • Rape of a child, aggravated rape, or aggravated sexual battery
    • Aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor or especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor
    • Incest
  • The parent has been convicted of trafficking for commercial sex act or sex trafficking of children.
  • A legal parent or guardian has failed to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume legal and physical custody or financial responsibility of the child and placing the child in the person's legal and physical custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the welfare of the child.

The Department of Children's Services shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child under any of the following circumstances:

  • The child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months.
  • A court has determined a child to be an abandoned infant.
  • A court has made a finding of severe child abuse.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-113(h)(2)

At the option of the department, the department may determine that a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents shall not be filed if one of the following exists:

  • The child is being cared for by a relative.
  • The department has documented in the permanency plan a compelling reason for determining that filing such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • The department has not made reasonable efforts to provide to the family of the child, consistent with the time period in the department permanency plan, such services as the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to the child's home.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.