Frequently Asked Questions about Interstate Adoption in Tennessee

Interstate Adoption in TennesseeAdoption can be a wonderful way for loving families to grow. When a Tennessee family is looking to adopt a child that currently resides in another state, the requirements are a little bit different than they would be to adopt a child from within the state, but that does not mean that it is not possible.

As adoption is a legal process you will need to hire an adoption lawyer who is familiar with the requirements for adopting a child across state lines. Many families have lots of questions when it comes to adoption. We have compiled a list of some of the most common questions we hear from our clients here in Knoxville, in the hopes that it will help assuage some of your fears and concerns if you are considering adoption.

Q: Who may adopt a child?

A:  In general and subject to certain exceptions, if you are over the age of 18 and you have been a Tennessee resident (or maintained a regular place of abode in Tennessee) for at least six consecutive months prior to filing a petition for adoption, you may adopt with these stipulations:

  • The petitioner must have physical custody or must demonstrated to the court that they have the right to receive custody of the child sought be adopted at the time the petition is filed.
  • Spouses must petition jointly, unless one spouse is found incompetent. If the spouse is the parent of the child to be adopted, he/she may just join rather than surrender rights.
  • Foster parents will be given first preference for adopting their foster child if the foster child has resided in the foster home for 12 or more consecutive months immediately preceding the filling of the adoption petition.
  • If the foster child is related to the petitioner, the residency requirement may be waived. It may also be waived if the petitioner is serving on military duty outside of TN, but has lived or maintained a residence in the state for six consecutive months prior to entering military service.

Q: What if the child we want to adopt is in another state?

A: There are regulations called the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children that governs interstate adoptions. We can help you understand the ICPC as well as the processes it puts in place, so that your adoption goes as smoothly and as comfortably as possible.

Q: What is a Home Study?

A: Except for certain relative adoptions, any family that wishes to adopt must have a home study done. This is a document that describes the readiness and fitness of potentially adoptive parents. The home study will be helpful in matching the child with prospective adoptive parents. In some close relative adoptions the court may waive the home study. A licensed child-placing agency or a licensed clinical social worker will evaluate the home for the amount of approved fees on file with the state. The home study must have been updated or completed within 30 days prior to the filing of the adoption petition.

Q: Will the TN Department of Children’s Services conduct my home study if I am planning to do an interstate adoption?

A: Yes, in some cases. The Tennessee DCS will conduct a home study for a Tennessee family who is seeking the placement of a child who is in the custody or guardianship of the child public welfare agency of another state.  Other home studies will be done by licensed agencies or social workers for a fee.  If you are indigent, the DCS may do the home study for in-state children as well as out of state.

Q: What is the legal process for adoption?

A: For families wishing to adopt through the TN DCS, a parent preparation process that they call PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) is required. It includes an education and self-assessment process and includes the home study process.

The legal process of adoption involves terminating the legal rights of the birth parents or legal guardians and conferring the parental right with the adoptive parents. The adoption may be finalized in Tennessee six months after the child has been placed in the home. Adopting a related child may be faster if the court waives the waiting period.

Adoption is a wonderful way to expand your family and it has the added benefit of being a win-win for all involved. The adoptive parents receive the gift of a child in their household, and the child receives the gift of a safe, loving, forever family to call their own.

If you are considering interstate adoption, you need an experienced Knoxville family law attorney to guide you through the complex process. You are welcome to contact LaFevor & Slaughter to schedule a consultation today to discuss your case and get advice.

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