Tennessee Family Law Legislative Update 2020

July 20, 2020 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

2020 shirtHow is 2020 treating everyone so far?

OK, so it’s been one calamity after another. If you can’t stomach more bad news, stop reading, put down your computer or phone, go for a peaceful walk, and don’t stop walking until next year.

If that’s not a viable option, then you should start drinking NOW.

This year’s legislative session was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After adjourning early on March 19, our legislators reconvened in June to finish the session.

On the bright side, the interrupted session meant fewer laws were enacted. So, glass half full?

Unfortunately, the session wasn’t short enough to prevent Tennessee’s General Assembly and Governor Bill Lee from wasting valuable time and embarrassing themselves and, by association, all Tennesseans.

Let’s get on with ripping this Band-Aid off.

Adoption. The first law Gov. Lee signed this session was Public Chapter 514, which permits adoption agencies to refuse to participate “in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

In other words, state-funded adoption agencies may now discriminate against and deny services to gay or lesbian parents. Tennessee joins eight other states that allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse services to the LGBTQ community.

To all the Tennessee children languishing in foster care who are destined to remain there because of this, the adults have failed you.

This law generated considerable outcry and negative publicity for our State. Over 100 businesses publicly rebuked this law, including Amazon, Nike, Nissan, and Dell. Postmates said it would reevaluate its planned expansion of its current 650 employee workforce in Tennessee because of this law that promotes “flagrant hatred.”

Tennessee’s legal discrimination against same-sex parents became effective January 24, 2020.


Public Chapter 525 is this year’s clean-up bill for various adoption-related statutes. Among other things, it synthesizes the definitions of “severe abuse” found in different parts of the Tennessee Code, clarifies how to prove abandonment by the repeatedly incarcerated, creates a system for counting the days of not being incarcerated when determining abandonment, and clarifies the meaning and role of a Guardian in adoptions. This became effective March 6, 2020.

Voluntary surrender. Public Chapter 684 amends various laws to allow mothers to voluntarily surrender newborn children up to two weeks old (up from three days old) to hospitals, fire departments, and other “Safe Place” locations without any criminal liability. This became effective June 15, 2020.

Parent education seminar. Public Chapter 710 requires divorcing parents to attend a parent educational seminar “as soon as possible after the filing of the complaint.” It also allows the seminar to be waived by the court for good cause.

Agreed parenting plans. Public Chapter 520 allows trial courts to accept agreed parenting plans without requiring them to hear proof and make findings of fact about the child’s best interest. This would have changed the outcome in the Stricklin opinion.

Modification of parenting plans. Public Chapter 693 changes the statute that requires that a parent’s residential time be limited if the court finds the parent has abandoned their parenting responsibilities for an extended period of time or has physically, emotionally, or sexually abused anyone living with the child to now require that the court also find the limitation is in the child’s best interest. This became effective June 11, 2020.

Family-law statute of limitations. Public Chapter 596 amends the law that imposes a 10-year statute of limitations on actions to enforce a judgment to completely remove any time limitation on actions to enforce orders “in a domestic relations matter” under title 36. This became effective March 20, 2020.

This law would have changed the outcome in the recent Proctor opinion.

Right to privacy. Public Chapter 764 bans abortion at six weeks’ gestation, before many women even know they are pregnant. Expecting a legal challenge, the law also provides for bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks of gestation. It also bans abortion on the basis of the fetus’s sex (which cannot be determined until after 14 weeks) or because the fetus has Down syndrome (the test for which cannot be done until 10-13 weeks). It also requires patients seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and have the doctor describe and display the image to them.

There are exceptions for the life of the mother, but not for rape or incest.

It also ends reproductive choice for juveniles in DCS custody. Previously, such juveniles had to petition the judge to allow them to have an abortion. Now they can’t even do that. They’ll be forced to give birth.

Tennessee lawsuits

Governor Lee signed this bill into law on Monday, July 13. Within minutes, this unconstitutional law was blocked in federal court, of course.

It’s a good thing Tennesseans don’t have any other problems that could be solved by all the taxpayer money spent paying lawyers to lose this case in court.

money to burn

It’s also worth noting what Republicans in the Legislature had to do to pass this law—they locked the doors, suspended Senate rules, and added this to the agenda after midnight after promising they would never do anything like that.

COVID-19 is a hoax! In its last vote before finally adjourning at 3 a.m., the very serious, totally not trolls that control the House passed Resolution 340 to “congratulate the people of Tennessee for clearly seeing that the mainstream media has sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas.” OK, then.


Bless their hearts.

Child Support Guidelines. Don’t forget that Tennessee recently revised its Child Support Guidelines. Click here for details.

Discovery objections. Tennessee also amended the Rules of Civil Procedure to prohibit general objections to interrogatories or requests for production. Click here for more on that.

If you made it this far, (a) congratulations, and (b) I’m sorry.

Elections are coming. Vote.

Tennessee Family Law Legislative Update 2020 was last modified: July 20th, 2020 by K.O. Herston

1 people reacted on this

  1. Don’t forget Public Chapter 636 modifying a convicted sex offender’s right to parenting time with their children: https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/111/pub/pc0636.pdf That one was easy to miss because it is contained within the criminal statutes and not the family law statutes.

    Also, Public Chapter 520 dispensing with the need to offer proof when modifying custody/parenting time based on an agreement of the parties: https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/111/pub/pc0520.pdf

Leave a Comment