Terminating Parental Rights in Tennessee

Maryville Family Law Attorneys Assisting with Termination of Parental Rights

Help with ending the legal relationship between parent and child in Blount County & East Tennessee

United States law is designed to protect biological parents’ rights to raise their children in the way they see fit. However, these same laws also prioritize the best interests of the child above everything else, and allows the court to determine whether a parent’s legal rights should be terminated. Every state has different rules around terminating parental rights, so it’s essential to work with an experienced Tennessee attorney.

At Shepherd & Long, P.C., our Maryville family law attorneys help with both voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights. Our decades-long history of success in East Tennessee gives us the experience and knowledge you need to get through the process smoothly. Our network of resources helps us collect documentation and information and ensures everything is filed properly and on time. Talk to us today.


Ravyn Kennedy
"Kevin is an amazing lawyer that fought for my custody and got me a quick and easy divorce! Very compassionate and determined."

Ravyn Kennedy

Danielle Kennedy
"Kevin Shepherd helped my family with a heartwrenching custody case. He was compassionate and professional. We could not have asked for a better attorney."

Danielle Kennedy

Caleb Gandy
"Kevin responded to my urgent email even while he was on Christmas leave. He got me full legal and physical custody of my kids! He’s very professional and a killer lawyer! I recommend him to everyone I know! Huge props to Erica his legal assistant too! They are all fantastic!"

Caleb Gandy

Megan Sparkes
"I Kevin and his team are very driven, compassionate, and are willing to do what it takes to win even when things in your case aren't cut-and-dry. Both Kevin and Maxey are very knowledgeable of family law and highly responsive. It's really hard to find a lawyer who actually has a heart for your situation and will work with you on costs, but they do. Kevin and his team are absolutely phenomenal and I cannot recommend them enough. I plan to re-hire if I should ever need legal services in the future."

Megan Sparkes

Jorga Prater
"We have hired Maxey to represent use for a very difficult family matter that has caused use quite a lot of emotional stress. The firm is so helpful; very professional, and also answer questions in ways we understand them. We have also met with Kevin and he is as kind as Maxey is and they really seem to know there stuff . They genuinely care about use and that’s means a lot."

Jorga Prater

Termination of Parental Rights Maryville TN

What does it mean to terminate parental rights in Tennessee?

Ultimately, terminating parental rights ends the legal relationship between parent and child. Once this relationship is ended, it opens the door for another person to adopt the child, like a stepparent, an adoptive parent, or another family member. Sometimes this termination is voluntary. However, sometimes it can be involuntary and the court makes the decision. In the case of involuntary termination, the petitioner must prove the parents are unfit and termination of rights is in the best interest of the child.

What would make a parent lose rights to their children?

According to Tennessee law, involuntary termination of parental rights can be based on the following grounds:

  • Abandonment
  • Substantial noncompliance with the statement of responsibility in a permanency plan or a plan of care
  • The child has been removed from the parent’s house via a court order for a period of at least six months and (a) conditions that would subject the child to further abuse or neglect are still present, (b) there is little chance that these conditions will be remedied in the near future, and (c) continuing the child’s relationship with the parent significantly diminishes the child’s chance of being integrated into a stable, permanent, and safe home in the near future
  • The parent committed severe child abuse against the child in question, a sibling or half-sibling of the child, or any other child residing in the parent’s home
  • The parent has been sentenced to serve two or more years in prison for conduct committed against the child in question, a sibling or half-sibling of the child, or any other child residing in the parent’s home
  • The parent has been confined in a detention facility serving a sentence of 10 or more years, and the child is under eight years old when the sentence is imposed
  • The parent has been convicted (or found civilly liable) of the intentional and wrongful death of the child’s other parent (or legal guardian)
  • The parent is mentally incompetent to care for and supervise the child
  • The child was conceived out of a rape for which the parent was convicted

Note that this isn’t a full list, and there may be other circumstances under which the court may terminate a parent’s rights. Our Maryville parental termination attorneys can assist you in determining that status of your particular situation.

How long does a parent need to be gone before it’s considered abandonment?

Tennessee law defines child abandonment as when:

  • A parent willfully fails to visit, engage with their child, or make reasonable child support payments for the four consecutive months immediately before filing a petition
  • An incarcerated parent willfully fails to visit, engage with their child, or make reasonable child support payments for four consecutive months immediately before incarceration
  • A biological or legal father willfully fails to visit or to make reasonable payments toward support of the child’s mother during the last four months of her pregnancy
  • A child’s mother voluntarily leaves a newborn at a designated medical facility or safe space and fails to seek contact with the infant for at least 90 days

The parental rights attorneys at Shepherd & Long in Maryville can determine if child abandonment has occurred in your case.

What is voluntary termination of parental rights?

Not all termination of parental rights cases are negative or unhappy. Some parents willing give up their rights for many reasons – maybe they understand they’re not able to properly care for their child and put it up for adoption. Even terminating parental rights voluntarily can be a complex and emotional process. In addition to filing a petition to terminate parental rights, the mother is also required to contact the presumed father to verify and terminate his claim to the child; i.e. paternity.

In cases of adoption, prospective parents must have the birth parents’ legal consent before the adoption is finalized. In Tennessee, adoptive parents also must wait 72 hours after the child’s birth before appearing before a judge to sign the legal documents. However, the birth parent can revoke consent for up to 10 days after the formal adoption.

What happens at a Tennessee parental rights termination hearing?

After filing a termination of parental rights petition, the court sets a date for a hearing. If you are the petitioner, ensure you bring all the relevant paperwork. You must also bring proof the other parent (or parents) were properly served with termination papers. Your attorney will help with this.

If the respondent is there, they have the right to tell the judge whether they agree with having their parental rights terminated. If the respondent is not there, the judge will want to know if they were properly served with all documents, including the date of the hearing. If the judge finds anything out of order, they may cancel the hearing altogether. However, if everything was done correctly, the judge can decide without the respondent’s presence.

The judge may decide immediately following the hearing, or decide they need more information and schedule a trial.

Can I get my parental rights reinstated in Tennessee?

It would be extremely difficult. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 22 states currently have legislation in place allowing reinstatement of parental rights under circumstances. However, Tennessee is not one of them. In rare cases, if the court finds reason to dismiss adoptive proceedings, state law allows reinstatement of parental rights to the biological parents.

Maryville attorneys providing answers about termination of parental rights

Termination of parental rights is not a decision anyone should take lightly. The family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can help guide you through the process and understand all your options, as well as your rights. We put our 40 combined decades of experience to work for you. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.