Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
There are several ways for a parent or guardian to voluntarily terminate their parental rights under Tennessee statutes.
Consent is available as an option on the fourth day after a child is born. Consent may be revoked until confirmed by the Court. Parental consent is handled differently depending on whether or not the child is related to the prospective adoptive parent.If they are not related, the parent seeking to terminate his or her parental rights is required to appear before the Court for a confirmation hearing. There are extensive forms required, similar to that of a surrender of parental rights.
Unrelated parental consents are typically reserved for situations in which one parent (usually the birth mother) is committed to the adoption plan, but the other parent (usually the birth father) is less decisive. Unlike a surrender of parental rights, consent allows the birth mother to change her mind until confirmed by the Court, allowing her the flexibility to obtain custody of the child in the event that the birth father decides to contest the termination of parental rights.
Related parental consents do not require a court appearance.Related parental consents are often used in stepparent adoptions when everyone is in agreement that it is in the child’s best interest to be adopted by their stepparent. In these cases, the parent agreeing to terminate his or her parental rights becomes a co-petitioner in the adoption.
Surrender of parental rights requires that the Department of Children’s Services, a licensed adoption agency, or prospective adoptive parent(s) take guardianship of the child. If the child is surrendered to prospective adoptive parent(s), a home study must first be completed. Like consent, surrenders are not an option until the fourth day after the child’s birth. The surrender process requires an extensive packet of forms developed by the Department of Children’s Services, including completion of a thorough social and medical history of the birth parents.
The surrendering parent is entitled to legal representation and psychological counseling, and usually takes place in the Judge’s chambers. If the child will be removed from Tennessee, your attorney will help effect compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) All parties will be reminded to bring their identification to the surrender hearing. In 2015, the revocation period changed from 10 days to 3 business days. The surrendering parent will be informed by the Judge of the specific date by which they must revoke the surrender.
Waiver of Interest
A waiver of interest is only available to a father who is not the child’s legal father and is not listed on the child’s birth certificate. It can be executed at any time, including during the mother’s pregnancy. A waiver of interest does not require a court appearance and cannot be revoked.
Everyone benefits from successful adoptions. Likewise, all parties suffer significantly from failed adoption attempts. Attorney and prospective adoptive families must be scrupulous in their ethics when dealing with birth parents. Even an unsuccessful challenge to set aside a finalized adoption is traumatic. There may be criminal charges
Take all practicable measures to avoid a claim of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation. Best practices to ensure a successful adoption include:
- Encourage the birth parents to exercise their right to legal representation and psychological counseling.
- Do not rush a birth parent who requests additional time.
- Never make threats or promises in exchange for a voluntary termination of parental rights.
- Do not condition future visits or forgiveness of child support payments on a voluntary termination.