Termination of Parental Rights

Attorneys in Memphis
Tennessee Adoption Attorneys

Termination of Parental​ For many families, adopting a child is a powerful, fulfilling experience that allows them to provide a loving, safe environment for a child in need. The process of adoption, however, is not always easy, and there are often many considerations that must be addressed along the way. Among these is the reality that in order for an adoption to take place, one or both of the child’s legal parents must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights or have their rights terminated by a court order.

At the Memphis law firm of Douglass & Runger, Attorneys at Law, we understand that terminating a parent’s parental rights is a sensitive undertaking. In many adoption cases, it is the most difficult part of the entire proceeding. If you are looking to adopt a child in Tennessee, our lawyers can help you show that the adoption will be in the child’s best interests.

Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights

According to Tennessee adoptions laws, there are several ways that a biological parent can give up his or her parental rights prior to an adoption. The first is through direct consent, which means that on the fourth day after the child’s birth, the child’s mother and father (or putative father) can appear before the court to relinquish their parental rights. An appearance might not be necessary for a stepparent adoption or other related adoptions.

The child’s biological parents could also surrender their parental rights through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Parents must usually wait at least three days after the child’s birth to surrender their parental rights, at which point, guardianship of the child is then given to the state, a licensed adoption agency, or the prospective adoptive parents.

Finally, a waiver of interest can be completed by a possible father who is not the child’s legal father nor is he listed on the birth certificate. A waiver of interest can be signed at any time, including prior to birth. This option may be utilized in conjunction with a surrender or consent by the mother so that the adoption can continue.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Shelby County

A parent’s parental rights can also be terminated involuntarily by a court order. The process of terminating parental rights can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful, but it is often a necessary step in facilitating an adoption. Under Tennessee law, a court may terminate a person’s parental rights due to:

  • Abandonment of the child, which is defined as the failure to visit, financially support, or show interest in the child in the months prior to the filing;
  • Failure to comply with a previously established permanency plan;
  • Failure to change behaviors after a child was removed from the home due to neglect or abuse;
  • Commission of severe child abuse;
  • Certain criminal convictions and periods of being incarcerated; and
  • Inability or unwillingness to care for or supervise the child.

In many cases, the petitioning party is the prospective adoptive parents, which means that they are responsible for proving their case. If the court decides to terminate the parent’s rights, the child will usually be placed under the care of the Department of Children’s Services or a licensed placement agency while the adoption is pending.

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Memphis Adoption Attorney

Curtis A. Runger

Megan R. House

Chelsea Connor

Psonya Hackett