Tennessee Supreme Court Decision Upholds Parental Rights of Bradley County Mother

February 21, 2013

In a unanimous Opinion released today, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a trial court ruling that termination of a mother’s parental rights was not in the best interests of the children.

The Bradley County mother and father were divorced in 2002 and entered into a parenting plan for their two minor children. Mother subsequently injected father with a chemical used to euthanize animals and was incarcerated in 2003 after pleading guilty to attempted second degree murder.

In 2004, the mother and father entered into an amended parenting plan providing for visitation with the children’s maternal grandmother and monthly visits to the mother in prison. The amended plan also stipulated that the parties would return to the original parenting plan following the mother’s release from prison.

In 2009, the father remarried, and the father and stepmother sought to terminate the mother’s parental rights.  The trial court determined termination was not in the best interests of the children. The father and stepmother appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. The Court held that although the father and stepmother established a statutory ground for termination of the parental rights, they did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that the termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interests of the children.

To read the In re: Taylor W. et al. opinion, authored by Justice Janice M. Holder, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.