Court Rules on Parents' Constitutional Rights in Termination Proceedings

The Tennessee Supreme today held that a parent's constitutional right to fundamental fairness in termination proceedings does not require adoption of a separate procedure that allows parents to further appeal termination orders based on ineffective representation by appointed counsel. The Court argued that adding a separate procedure could result in years of litigation that “could cause immeasurable damage to children.” The Court imposed an additional safeguard that says in an appeal from an order terminating parental rights, the Court of Appeals must consider whether the evidence supports the trial court’s findings as to all the grounds for termination alleged and as to the best interests of the child, even if the parent fails to challenge these findings on appeal. Read the majority opinion in In Re Carrington H., authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, and the separate concurring and dissenting opinion, authored by Chief Justice Lee.

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