Tennessee Adoption Laws
Persons age 18 and older, whether single, married, divorced, widowed or members of the LGBTQ community, are eligible to adopt if they have been Tennessee residents for at least six consecutive months. The residency requirement may be waived in some cases of deployed military parents. If the adoptive parents are married, both must appear on the petition unless one spouse is incompetent. Adoptive parents must be committed to the process, able to care for the adoptee, and have sufficient financial means.
Any child or adult may be adopted; however, anyone 14 years of age or older must provide consent.
Both the birth mother and biological father, if known, must consent to termination of their parental rights, even if the biological father’s name did not appear on the birth certificate.
Overview of the Adoption Process
The birth mother maintains guardianship of a newborn for four days at which time the adoptive parents can obtain an order of guardianship and a power of attorney for medical purposes. If the birth mother surrenders the child after the four-day period, the adoptive parents must file a petition for adoption. The birth mother has 10 more days to change her mind after which her decision to terminate her parental rights becomes irrevocable. There is a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the final adoption decree for the adoption to be challenged on legal grounds.
All prospective adoptive parents must undergo a home study conducted by a licensed agency or social worker. The home study must have been completed or updated within six months of filing the adoption petition.
In addition to the home study, adoptive parents must complete a course such as Parents As Tender Healers (PATH), a 23-hour self-assessment, and a parental education program. It covers topics such as grief and loss, communication skills, and addressing certain family situations.
Prospective adoptive parents will choose the type of adoption they wish to pursue and work with an attorney to facilitate the legal process.
Your Family Law Attorney’s Role
Adoption is a highly involved, emotionally charged process. An experienced family law attorney will help you make key decisions every step of the way, including choosing what type of adoption you want to pursue, preparing for the home study, filing court documents in a timely manner, and keep the process moving. Agency representatives, social workers, and others involved in the process are there to advocate for the child or adult being adopted. Your family law attorney is there to represent you and your interests.