Tenneessee Grandparents Rights
Tennessee is a state in which individual rights — and parental rights — are well-protected. Tennessee’s statutes regarding grandparent visitation are lengthy and complex. Determining whether visitation should be granted is a multi-step process. The term grandparent includes biological grandparents and their spouses and the parents of adoptive parents.
In Tennessee, a hearing is required if visitation is requested by a grandparent and opposed by the custodial parent under any of the following circumstances:
- The father or mother is deceased
- The child’s father and mother are divorced, legally separated, or were never married to each other
- A parent of the child has been missing for at least six months
- The child resided in the home of the grandparent for twelve months or more and was subsequently removed from the home by the parent, establishing a rebuttable presumption that denial of visitation may result in irreparable harm to the child
- There has been a “significant existing relationship” for at least twelve months between the grandparent and grandchild. This relationship was terminated by the parent, not for reason of abuse or endangerment, with this severance being likely to cause “substantial emotional harm” to the child.
- If visitation has been ordered by a court of another state.
Tennessee will also consider whether elimination of of the grandparent-grandchild relationship might cause “substantial harm” to the child. Three qualifying circumstances are allowed:
- The “significant existing relationship” with the grandparent was such that cessation would cause “severe emotional harm” to the child.
- The grandparent functioned as a primary caregiver, so that interruption of the relationship could cause the child’s daily needs not to be met.
- Loss of a “significant existing relationship” with the grandparent could cause other “direct and substantial harm.”
Finally, it is elementary to determine whether a grandparent-grandchild relationship qualifies as a “significant existing relationship.” Grandparents can clear this hurdle if the child resided with the grandparent for at least six months, if the grandparent was a full-time caretaker for at least six months or if the grandparent had frequent visitation with the child for at least one year.
Finally, the Courts will consider whether Grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child, which include the following:
- The length and quality of the grandparent-grandchild relationship
- Existing emotional ties
- The preference of the child, when applicable
- Any hostility between parents and grandparents, and the grandparent’s willingness to promote the parent-child relationship
- The grandparent’s “good faith,” meaning that he or she has a sincere desire for visitation and is not acting out of malice
- Any time-sharing arrangement between divorced or separated parents
- A grandparent’s status as parent of a deceased parent
- An “unreasonable” denial of visitation for at least 90 days
- The grandparent’s desire to maintain a “significant existing relationship”
- Any disruption of the parent-child relationship that would result from visitation
- Any finding of parental unfitness
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in the state of Tennessee and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
Call (800) 787-4981