By their nature, custody issues are often complicated. Most states, including Tennessee, usually make decisions with the belief that the best interests of a child are with the biological parents unless proven otherwise. One state exemption, however, is for felons who are serving 10 or more years in prison — they are not allowed custody of minor children under age eight.
In one recent case, a nine-year-old girl was taken from her adoptive parents when a court reversed earlier orders and returned child custody to the biological father. The girl was taken away at age two from her him when he was sent to federal prison for 15 years on gun-trafficking charges. She was formally adopted by the family in 2008.
The girl’s biological father allegedly had information about a murder that led prosecutors to have his sentence reduced to less than eight years. This allowed the father to seek reinstatement of parental rights and then to see if the adoption could be reversed.
Based on the change of the father’s sentence in prison to less than the 10 years stipulated by state law as the cutoff point for termination of parental rights, the court reversed an earlier judgment. The girl was returned to her biological father just three hours after the court decision and now lives in another state. The adoptive parents have petitioned a Tennessee court to get the girl returned to the home she has known for nearly seven years.
In cases in which a child is taken away from a biological parent but there are no charges of neglect on the parent’s part, custody will generally be returned. Because determining the best interests of a child may be complicated, parents should know their legal rights.
Source: CNN, “Adoptive parents fight for custody of 9-year-old Sonya,” Randi Kaye, May 20, 2014