What makes a parent unfit?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2019 | stepparent and relative adoptions | 0 comments

Stepparent and relative adoptions in Tennessee are fairly common, but that does not mean that they are easy to obtain. Often, and understandably, the reluctance or refusal of either or both birth parents to voluntarily terminate their parental rights presents a complication to the adoption process. The Court can intervene with an involuntary termination of parental rights, but only upon determining that the parent is unfit to care for or make decisions for the child. 

While it may seem that the standards by which the court may deem a parent unfit should be universal, however, the definition of parental unfitness varies at least somewhat from state to state. In all states, however, family law courts use the best interest of the child as the guiding principle in determining whether a parent is unfit. In other words, if the court determines that remaining in the parent’s care and allowing the parent to make decisions for the child would not be in his or her best interest, the court would likely determine the parent to be unfit and would have a responsibility to protect the child.

In Tennessee, the usual ground alleged to terminate the birth parent’s rights in an stepparent or relative adoption proceeding is abandonment. The Plaintiff (Adopting Party) must show that the birth parent has abandoned the child, which in Tennessee, is four consecutive months without either visiting with or paying support for the children. Once the grounds have been established the Court must make a further finding that the termination and adoption is in the children’s best interest.    

While unfit parent definitions may vary slightly from state to state, there are a number of behaviors that may likely lead to termination of parental rights on grounds of unfitness:

  • Child abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment

A parent may also be unfit if he or she shows a lack of responsibility for, concern about or interest in the child’s welfare.

In Tennessee, if the Court finds grounds and finds that it is in the best interest of the children, it will terminate parental rights, clearing one of the major hurdles to your adoption.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.