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TN Supreme Court passes opinion on termination of parental rights

Tennessee’s Constitution grants rights to all citizens, and parental rights fall under the protection of the Constitution. In a recent decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court recognized that the Due Process Clauses of both the federal and state constitutions protect parents’ fundamental rights to have custody of their children and to care for them. However, this did not propel the Court to find that parents can appeal termination orders based on ineffective representation by appointed counsel.

In the decision, the Court’s reasoning was based on the fact that the state also has a duty to protect the children from further harm. The Court was concerned that if a parent could challenge a termination order based on ineffective assistance of their appointed counsel, the process for terminating parental rights could become even longer and more arduous for children who have already suffered. Thus, the Court found that this possible method of extending the termination process would not be in the child’s best interest.

In some situations, it is necessary for a court to step in and legally sever a parent’s relationship with their child. On the other hand, some parents have made mistakes in the past and are looking to keep their parental rights intact. Whatever the situation, parents who are looking to challenge a termination order should understand their options and limitations under state law.

Because the Supreme Court is the top court in the state of Tennessee, this decision has set a huge precedent in the area of child custody. An experienced family law attorney can advise parents on how any other current court decisions might affect their own child custody case.

Source:, “Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Constitutional Rights of Parents in Termination Proceedings,” Jan. 29, 2016


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