One parent cannot terminate the parental rights of the other parent in Tennessee. Under Tennessee law, a biological parent does not have standing to pursue termination of the other parent's parental rights. See Osborn v. Marr, 127 S.W.3d 737, 739-40 (Tenn. 2004); In the Matter of: Shelby L.B., No. M2010-00879-COA-R9-PT (Tenn. Ct. App. March 31, 2011).
In Osborn v. Marr, 127 S.W.3d 737, 739-40 (Tenn. 2004), the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a parent did not have standing to file a petition for termination. Mother and Father were never married. Mother filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father based on his imprisonment. There was no pending adoption. The trial court granted the Petition. The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court of Tennessee dismissed and vacated the judgments of the lower courts. The Supreme Court held that they lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal because Mother lacked standing to file the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. The Court stated, "Because the legislature specifically designated who may file a petition to terminate parental rights, a court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear such a petition unless the party filing the petition has standing. . . . Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113(b) does not include the parent of a child as one of the persons or entities with standing to file a petition to terminate parental rights." Osborn, 172 S.W.39 at 740. Tennessee Code Annotated 36-1-113(b) states:
(b) The prospective adoptive parent or parents, including extended family members caring for a related child, any licensed child-placing agency having custody of the child, the child's guardian ad litem, or the department shall have standing to file a petition pursuant to this part or title 37 to terminate parental or guardianship rights of a person alleged to be a parent or guardian of the child. The prospective adoptive parents, including extended family members caring for a related child, shall have standing to request termination of parental or guardianship rights in the adoption petition filed by them pursuant to this part.
Why can't a parent terminate the other parent's parental rights? The Court goes on to explain the public policy reason for the legislature's decision to omit a child's parent from those who have standing to terminate parental rights. "The termination of a parent's parental rights outside the context of a prospective adoption would deny the child the support of two parents." Osborn, 172 S.W.39 at 740.
While a parent cannot terminate the other parent's parental rights alone, the parent may terminate the rights by joining in a petition for a step-parent adoption. If you are a biological parent who wants to pursue your husband or wife adopting your child please contact our office for a free consultation.