You may have seen a TV program or movie with a heartbreaking scene of a child being wrenched from the bosom of an adoptive family. The reason? The birth mother, father or both changed their mind. That is Hollywood fiction. In Tennessee, the reality is much different. If you are considering adopting a child, you should know that adoption laws in most cases prevent scenes of this kind from happening through the process of terminating parental rights.
According to FindLaw, parental rights are paramount in any family; to allow you to adopt a child, the courts require biological parents to terminate their parental rights and responsibilities. This is a legal action, and it is required whether the biological parents are working independently or with an adoption agency. What the action means is that the birth parents are giving up all of their rights in regard to the child. This is a permanent decision in almost all cases.
Involuntary termination may also occur under certain circumstances if the court finds it is for the best interest of the child. Situations in which you may see parental rights revoked by the court include:
- Severe neglect or abuse of the child
- Parent has abandoned the child
- Parent is convicted of a crime involving children
- Parent is mentally ill or dependent on alcohol or drug use and thereby unable to care for the child
- Convicted parent is sentenced to a lengthy jail term which would have a negative impact on the child
Some states do not allow revocation of consent, period. Some allow it in cases where the birth parents and the adoptive parents all agree to the revocation. Others allow revocation in cases where the birth parents were coerced or some type of fraud occurred.
In Tennessee, birth parents must appear before a judge to relinquish their rights. The earliest this can occur is 72 hours after the child’s birth. Following their court appearance, both parents have 10 days to revoke the action. These built-in waiting periods allow biological parents to fully consider the consequences. This then leaves the field clear for parents like you to adopt without the fear of losing the child through a revocation.
This general information is provided for your education, and should not be taken as legal advice.