The Tennessee courts have made it clear that parents and grandparents do not "begin on equal footing." The right to parent is premised on a fundamental constitutional right, which is not afforded to grandparents. In Tennessee, the visitation rights of grandparents are limited to a very narrow, statutorily defined set of circumstances. These circumstances require that (a) the father or mother of an unmarried minor child is deceased, (b) the child's father or mother are divorced, legally separated, or were never married to each other, (c) the child resided in the home of the grandparents for a period of twelve (12) months or more and was subsequently removed from the home, and a limited other set of circumstances.
The "First in Adoption" bill was unanimously passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in April of 2018. On May 3, 2018, Governor Bill Haslam signed off on the bill, which will become law on July 1, 2018. This bill will affect several different areas of adoption and termination law while still ensuring that the best interests of the child are well maintained.
I think that every attorney has that one case early in their career that makes them scratch their head and wonder just how a particular client's predicament came to be. For me, I was fresh out of law school and within my first month of practice was presented with a convoluted family law case in which my client, who we'll call Mr. Big, lived abroad, his current wife was believed to be living in Tennessee, and the couple hadn't seen or spoken to one another in over five years.