Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on July 9, 2020
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When it comes to adoption and/or child custody in Tennessee, one major factor the courts will look to in either situation is if the parent in question is fit to care for the child. While the determination of an unfit parent varies from state to state, in Tennessee, the following is how you prove a parent is unfit.
Tennessee Code on Parental Restrictions, Unfit Parents
A knowledgeable family law lawyer knows that the Tennessee Code Title 36 Annotated 36-6-406 defines both temporary and permanent restrictions on parenting plans. Under the code, the following is used to determine if a parent is unfit to raise a child or maintain child custody in Tennessee:
The parent has engaged in willful abandonment that continues for an extended period of time.
Physical or sexual abuse or a pattern of emotional abuse of the parent, child, or another person in the home has occurred.
The parent has been convicted of an adult sexual offense.
The parent has neglected to perform parental responsibilities as a result of:
An emotional or physical impairment.
Drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse.
There is a lack of emotional ties between the parent and child.
There is abuse that causes damage to the child’s psychological development.
The parent has withheld access to the child from the other parent for an amount of time without legal cause.
The parent has criminal convictions that do not allow the parent to care for the child.
Remember, it is often unlikely a parent will get full child custodyunless there are extreme circumstances like sex crimes against a minor. While these cases vary, it’s important to know that the outcome is always in the best interest of the child. But what does that actually mean?
Best Interest of The Child
This concept is the backbone of determining child custody in Tennessee and almost every other state. The idea of the “best interest of the child” is one we often assume is understood at a fundamental level. However, the actual legal practice behind it is often unmentioned.
In general, the best interest of the child is in reference to a child’s need for stability both in the home location and emotional connections to their parental figures. Other factors include:
Performance of parenting responsibilities
Ability to provide necessary care/history of providing parental stability
Child’s emotional and developmental needs
Each parent’s moral, physical, mental, and emotional fitness to parent the child
The child’s relationship and connections to other siblings, family members, the community, and school
While this is not an exhaustive list of what the court will consider in the child’s best interest, it does target many of the key factors for determining visitation rights and child custodywhen there is a question of parental responsibility and ability. You may contact an experienced family law attorney to learn more or to discuss your specific custody situation.
Factors That Determine a Parent is Unfit
Our Tennessee family law attorneys understand that divorcing parents may not agree on some or all of the custody issues. In some cases, one parent might not feel comfortable about leaving their children with the other parent.
At the parent’s request or the order of the court, the custody situation may be legally evaluated. This helps determine what kind of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
The following abilities are taken into consideration when determining whether or not a parent is unfit for child custody in Tennessee:
Setting age-appropriate limits when necessary
Understanding and/or responding to the child’s needs
Extent of reliance for assistance from the other parent or family members
Decision-making and conflict resolutions skills of the other parent
A history of child abuse with this or any other child
A track record of being physically or emotionally abusive to the other parent
Issues with abuse of alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs
A psychiatric illness that might risk the welfare of the child
Social issues that might negatively impact the child
Feelings of discomfort or fear in the child with respect to the parent
It is always a good idea to speak to a family law attorney to gain a better understanding of how courts evaluate child custody in Tennessee.
What happens to an unfit parent?
If a parent is found to be unfit in Tennessee, the court will decide how to modify the child custody agreements. In the case of adoption, the process will likely not go through.
Ask any skilled family law lawyer, and they will tell you that if a parent is found to be unfit, the court will:
Deny custody and transfer it to the other parent
Modify or deny visitation rights
Terminate parental rights of one or both parents
If parental rights are terminated for both parties, the child will be placed for adoption.
When you fear for the well-being and safety of your child, know that this isn’t a process to take lightly. The Tennessee family law attorneys of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC can help. We know how to handle disputes related to child custody in Tennessee, with a track record of successful and satisfactory resolution from our clients.
Family Law Attorney in Tennessee
If you believe your ex or their new partner is unfit to parent your child, know that you do not have to accept this. If you need to modify your parenting plans or child custody agreement, you need the attorneys of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC. Contact our family law attorneys in Tennessee today to schedule a free consultation.
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