Article IV. Post-Hearing Procedures; Miscellaneous Provisions

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Rule 39: Termination of Parental Rights.

(a) Petition.  A petition to terminate the parental rights of either or both parents to a minor child may be filed by: the prospective adoptive parent(s) of the child, including extended family members caring for related children; any licensed child-placing agency having custody of the child; the child's guardian ad litem; a court appointed special advocate (CASA) agency; or the Department of Children’s Services. The petition shall state:

(1) The child's birth name;

(2) The child's age or date of birth;

(3) The child's current residence address or county of residence or that the child is in the custody of the department or a licensed child-placing agency; 

(4) Any other facts that allege the basis for termination of parental rights and that bring the child and parties within the jurisdiction of the court;

(5) A verified statement that:

(A) the putative father registry maintained by the department has been consulted within ten (10) working days of the filing of the petition and shall state whether there exists any claim on the registry to the paternity of the child who is the subject of the termination or adoption petition; 

(B) indicates if there exists any other claim or potential claim to the paternity of the child; and 

(C) describes whether any other parental or guardianship rights have been terminated by surrender, parental consent, or otherwise, and whether any other such rights must be terminated before the child can be made available for adoption. 

(6) The petition or request for termination in the adoption petition shall have the effect of forever severing all of the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the parent(s) or guardian(s) to the child who is the subject of the order, and of the child to those parent(s) or guardian(s);

(7) The child will be placed in the guardianship of other person, persons or public or private agencies who, or that, as the case may be, shall have the right to adopt the child, or to place the child for adoption and to consent to the child's adoption; and

(8) The parent or guardian shall have no further right to notice of proceedings for the adoption of the child by other persons and that the parent or guardian shall have no right to object to the child's adoption or thereafter, at any time, to have any relationship, legal or otherwise, with the child.

(9) In addition to meeting the foregoing requirements, the petition shall contain the following notice: “Any appeal of the trial court's final disposition of the petition for termination of parental rights will be governed by Rule 8A, Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which imposes special time limitations for the filing of a transcript or statement of the evidence, the completion and transmission of the record on appeal, and the filing of briefs in the appellate court, as well as other special provisions for expediting the appeal. All parties must review Rule 8A, Tenn. R. App. P., for information concerning the special provisions that apply to any appeal of this case.”

(b) Service of Process and Notice of Proceedings.

(1) Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall cause the necessary parties as provided in T.C.A. § 36-1-117 to be summoned in accordance with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

(2) Prior to terminating the rights of any parent who is incarcerated it must be affirmatively shown to the court that the incarcerated parent or guardian received notice of the following:

(A) The time and place of the hearing to terminate parental rights;

(B) That the hearing will determine whether the rights of the incarcerated parent or guardian should be terminated;

(C) That the incarcerated parent or guardian has the right to participate in the hearing and contest the allegation that the rights of the incarcerated parent or guardian should be terminated, and, at the discretion of the court, such participation may be achieved through personal appearance, teleconference, telecommunication or other means deemed by the court to be appropriate under the circumstances; and

(D) That if the incarcerated parent or guardian wishes to participate in the hearing and contest the allegation, such parent or guardian:

(i) If indigent, will be provided with a court appointed attorney to assist the parent or guardian in contesting the allegation, and

(ii) Shall have the right to perpetuate such person’s testimony or that of any witness by means of depositions or interrogatories as provided by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

(E) If the incarcerated parent or guardian voluntarily signs a waiver or if said person takes no action after receiving notice of such rights, the court may proceed with the termination proceedings without the presence of the incarcerated parent or guardian.

(c) Response of Respondent. Any respondent may personally appear or file a written answer to the petition. A written response shall admit or deny the allegations of the petition and shall set forth the name and address of the answering respondent or his or her attorney.

(d) Guardian Ad Litem. Appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child shall be governed by T.C.A. § 37-1-149.

(e) Adjudicatory Hearing on Termination.

(1) The court shall conduct an adjudicatory hearing to determine the issues raised by the petition and by any answer(s) filed. Notice of the hearing shall be provided in the summons. 

(2) At the beginning of the hearing, any party who appears without an attorney shall be informed of the right to an attorney, and in the case of an indigent respondent an attorney shall be appointed pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13, unless waived by the party. Any such waiver shall be reflected in the record pursuant to Rule 30 of these rules.

(3) The court may, as it deems necessary, order the child to be examined by a psychiatrist, a licensed clinical psychologist, a physician, or any other appropriate person or agency. If a parent's ability to care for the child is at issue, the court may order a similar examination of the parent.

(4) The court may for good cause shown continue or take the case under advisement for such time as is required for receiving additional evidence, reports or assessments, or any other necessary information.

(5) All findings of fact shall be based on clear and convincing evidence. Neither the husband-wife, physician-patient, psychologist-patient, or clergy-penitent privilege shall be grounds for excluding any evidence in termination of parental rights proceedings.

(f) Disposition.

(1) If the court finds that any one or more of the grounds authorizing termination of parental rights exist and that the best interests of the child require the termination of such rights pursuant to the statute, the court shall enter an order that makes specific findings of fact and conclusions of law within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the hearing. 

(2) Should the court conclude that there are no grounds for termination of parental rights, or that the best interests of the child require that such rights should not be terminated, the court shall dismiss the petition and set forth in the order the facts and conclusions upon which the dismissal is based.

(3) A juvenile court order terminating parental rights shall award complete custody, control, and guardianship of the child to the Department of Children’s Services or a licensed child-placing agency with the right to place the child for adoption and to consent to the adoption in loco parentis.

(4) When an appeal is taken from the trial court's disposition, the court in its discretion may stay its order or otherwise suspend relief or grant whatever additional or modified relief is deemed appropriate during the pendency of the appeal and upon such terms as it deems proper. The trial court's decision regarding a stay, or other such relief granted pursuant to this subparagraph, may be reviewed by the appellate court pursuant to Rule 7, Tenn. R. App. P.

 Advisory Commission Comments [2007].

The amendment corresponds the rule with the applicable code, T.C.A. § 36-1-113, which was substantially revised in 1996.

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