How long does a non-custodial parent have to be absent from a childs life before their rights can be revoked?

Asked over 1 year ago - Knoxville, TN

We were never married. He has only seen our child for a total of 8 hours in the past 2 years and before that it was very seldom. He moved across the country and has another baby. He does not pay support and does absolutely nothing for our child but still manages to try to make my life miserable and at times does a pretty good job at it. I at one point had taken out an order of protection against him but he just used it against me and had me put in jail for 12 hours while I was 9 months pregnant with our child for something I did not do and had witnesses to prove it. He never calls or even texts to ask how our child is doing. The only thing that is said when he does call or text is about the things that I am doing or have done that he does not like.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Jill Zerfoss Grim

    Contributor Level 10


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . You cannot terminate his parental rights unless you have someone else wanting to adopt him, i.e., a stepfather. However, if he has never been legitimated as the father (signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or been declared the legal father by a court), he in essense has no custodial rights, as in TN, custody of a child born to a non-wed mother is with the mother. If he is the legal father of the child, then you can have the court set child support. If he has established visitation rights with the child and you feel it is not in the child's best interest, you could ask the court to stop his visitation rights as in the best interest of the child, but of course that opens you up to him coming to court to insist on enforcing his visitation schedule. If/when you are married and your husband wants to adopt your son, you can petition to terminate the biological father's parental rights after showing the court that he has not visited or supported the child in the four months prior to filing the petition. The law does not like to terminate a parent's rights unless there is someone else to fill that parent's place, regardless of whether the parent is an absent one.

  2. Benjamin Timothy Barnett

    Contributor Level 5

    Answered . This is an issue too difficult to explain in a short e-mail yet, the short answer is that you can terminate parental rights after 4 mo's of certain events. Those include failure to support and failure to visit - and several others. Additionally, there is a hiccup that most judges will not terminate a parent unless there is another person ready to adopt. This is a complicated issue that really requires a sit down with an attorney.

    There are several issues here that need to be addressed. First, is there a parenting plan? Second, has he be legitimated to be the father? Third, why has child support not been set?

    All of these need to be addressed, and each include dynamics that will allow you greater ease of parenting against the absent father. If you would like to discuss the matter, feel free to call my office or set an appointment.

    Ben Barnett- 865-474-0128

  3. Jere Franklin Ownby III


    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . No financial support, or only token support for four months is grounds for termination of parental rights. No visitation with the child, or mere token visitation for four months is also grounds for termination of parental rights.

    If you find this reponse helpful to someone in your position, please indicate that on the Avvo website.

    If you'd like to speak with an attorney who has done this sort of work many times over many years, contact my office. 865-633-6633

    If you want to discuss this further with me, send me a note. Attorney Jere Franklin Ownby

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