The basics of Tennessee adoptions

Experienced Tennessee family law attorneys can help families handle adoptions.

There are many different kinds of adoption. Adoptions can be open or closed, state-sponsored or private, domestic or international, familial or non-familial and involve children of all ages, backgrounds, races and ethnicities. Whether you want to solidify the parental bond you feel with a step-child or want to grow your family in another way, adoption may be right for you. The process can be complicated for people unfamiliar with the legal system, however, so an introduction to the "ins and outs" at a high level can make things seem less overwhelming for you.

State-sponsored adoptions

The State of Tennessee sponsors adoptions of children from its foster care/guardianship system as well as helping facilitate out-of-state adoptions of children in the foster care system of another jurisdiction pursuant to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Generally speaking, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (TCDS) will conduct home studies and send relevant findings to another state in an attempt to help a Tennessee resident facilitate the adoption of a child in a government/public welfare custody or guardianship situation.

As for in-state adoptions, the TDCS gives adoption priority to those families currently fostering a particular child who wish to make their arrangement permanent to become the child's parents. The state maintains listings of children in full-time guardianship, and approved foster families can adopt children after a mandatory waiting period, completion of Parents as Tender Healers (PATH) parent preparation training, and positive results of a home study and background check. Even in these state-sponsored adoptions, though, working with your own attorney can make the process go smoother.

Private adoptions

Private, non-stepparent adoptions are generally handled by either adoption agencies or attorneys. Agencies and attorneys alike provide many key adoption-related services, including:

  • Locating children available for adoption
  • Conducting or arranging required home studies and PATH-type classes
  • Conducting background checks on prospective adoptive parents
  • Facilitating communication between birth parents or public welfare/government groups at home or abroad and those wishing to adopt

Like public, state-sponsored adoptions, private adoptions can be sought by almost anyone who has the desire to grow their family and can prove that they can provide a suitable, loving home for a child. This includes people from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and walks of life: gay or straight, single or a couple, married or unmarried, own their own home or rent an apartment, urban or suburban, etc.

Private adoptions can also happen for children of all ages, races, ethnicities and national origin: they can be domestic or international and familial or non-familial.

Stepparent adoptions

Increasingly common as subsequent marriage rates continue to rise are stepparent adoptions. Like the name implies, these types of adoptions involve the biological child of one spouse being adopted by their new spouse.

Some people may think that these are simple processes that just involve signing a few papers to make the parental relationship official. That isn't necessarily the case, however. They may be less complicated than traditional adoptions and do usually take less time to complete, but they can still be difficult to handle without the help of someone intimately familiar with the family laws of Tennessee. For example, these adoptions involve getting the other birth parent to give up parental rights to the child (if he or she is still living or hasn't had his or her legal rights previously terminated because of abuse, neglect, abandonment or prolonged incarceration) and could still require a home study and background check of the adoptive parent, though these are sometimes waived depending on the situation.

Help through the process

Any type of adoption involves multiple steps, numerous important documents to file, court costs, home studies and more. Having an experienced adoption attorney at your side throughout the process can make things run more smoothly, be more cost effective and be less stressful for you. To learn more, contact the Chattanooga law office of Horton, Ballard & Pemerton today. You can call them toll free at 800-819-3927 or send an email.