Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

Child Support and Parental Rights

Mother hugging her son

A parent’s rights to their child may be terminated for several reasons. One of the most common reasons to terminate parental rights is abandonment by a willful failure to support (in other words, not paying child support).

The party seeking to terminate the parent(s) rights, for this reason, must prove that for four consecutive months immediately before filing the petition to terminate, the parent either failed to provide financial support or failed to make reasonable payments toward the support of the child. Payments must be more than just “token” support.

What’s “token” support?

Essentially, just because a parent gives their ex a few dollars here and there does not mean the court will consider it a good-faith effort toward providing support. Parental rights could be terminated if it is well within their means to pay more, or if they fail to contribute to the support of the child in other ways such as helping with medical or food expenses.

How hard is it to terminate parental rights for nonpayment of child support?

It is more straightforward when a parent has not paid any child support at all for that four-month period. But token payments do not get a parent off the hook.

That parent is still responsible for proving that their failure to support was not willful. Tennessee courts have considered a variety of circumstances regarding a parent’s “willfulness” to not pay child support. Examples include if they were too ill to work, or did have enough money but made unnecessary purchases instead.

So what’s the takeaway?

Failure to pay child support is a more obvious reason to have one’s parental rights to their child terminated. However, only paying some child support can put a parent at risk of losing their parental rights too. If they cannot justify partial payments given their circumstances, this is especially true.

Held Law Firm understands that the termination of parental rights affects the whole family. While it’s sometimes for the best, other times it’s best avoided. An experienced attorney can help you navigate your path forward and advise you on the best steps to take through the process. Give us a call at (865) 685-4780.

The information in this blog is accurate as of the time of publication, but laws often change. That’s why it’s important to hire an attorney who keeps up with these changes. Contact us today.