When a child is born, its natural parents automatically have certain rights and responsibilities to that child. After a court terminates one's parental rights, the legal parent-child relationship is permanently severed, and the parent no longer has any rights or duties with regard to the child. There are several grounds a court can use to terminate parental rights in Tennessee. These grounds are set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated §§36-1-113(g)-(h).
Substantial noncompliance with permanency plan
Persistence of conditions necessitating the removal of the child from the home after six months
Severe child abuse
Parent imprisoned under a sentence of ten or more years and child is under the age of eight
Parent convicted or found civilly liable for the wrongful death of the child's other parent
When termination is based on abandonment, noncompliance with permanency plan, or persistence of conditions, the Department of Children's Services must show by clear and convincing evidence that it made "reasonable efforts" to keep the family together. If defense counsel can effectively argue that the Department of Children's Services failed to provide reasonable efforts, the termination petition will be vacated.
When considering termination, a court must find by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist and that termination is in the best interest of the child. At the heart of these proceedings is the ultimate goal of ensuring that the child has a safe and stable environment to grow up in.