Family members are taking on the task of stepping forward and caring for children in their families almost every single day in Tennessee. Sometimes, this is because the child’s biological parents cannot take care of them, or it may be because the person married the parent of the child and would like to adopt the child as their own.
Regardless of how the family member may know or be related to the child, there are certain adoption requirements in Tennessee that the individual must follow before making the commitment to take care of the child and their needs for the rest of their life.
While each state has its own requirements for adopting a relative family member, Tennessee only recognizes relative family members as individuals who are related to the child by blood, adoption, or marriage. Therefore, in order for a family member to adopt another family member, the individual must be the child’s grandparent, aunt, uncle, great grandparent, sibling, stepparent, cousin, or spouse of a relative.
In addition, the family member interested in adopting the child must have primary care, meaning that the child spends all or most of their time with them. Relatives typically gain primary care through a legal custody or guardianship case, but it is not uncommon for this to be decided through an informal family arrangement as well.
If the other parent is unfit or the child is in danger, you will need to show proof of this, which may be done through photographs, video footage, audio recordings, and witness statements. This is very important as the state of Tennessee prioritizes the well-being of children and making sure that they are in a safe and happy home as well as properly being taken care of.
If it is proven that the child’s environment is unsafe, the prospective adoptive parent must be able to show that they can provide a safe and loving home for the child until they are a legal adult.
How does a stepparent adopt their stepchild?
When an individual has such a strong bond with their spouse’s child, they may become interested in adopting the child. As a matter of fact, stepparent adoptions are one of the most common adoptions in Tennessee as well as the rest of the country. However, this is not always easy to establish.
First, the child’s other biological parent must relinquish their parental rights before the stepparent can adopt the child. If they agree to do this, their rights to make decisions for the child will be terminated, their visitation rights will be discarded, and they will no longer need to make any child support payments. However, Tennessee requires written proof and permission from the other parent stating that the individual can adopt the child and that they are relinquishing their rights.
When the adoption is granted, Tennessee will send out a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name listed as one of the parents of the child. As a result, the stepparent has the same rights as a natural parent and can make medical, religious, and legal decisions for the child.
It is important to know that regardless of if the stepparent and parent get divorced, the stepparent who has adopted the child does not lose their rights as they are now considered a legal parent. Therefore, they can request visitation and custody as well as be required to provide child support.
If the child is at least 14 years of age, their written consent is also required before the stepparent adoption will be approved.
How does a grandparent adopt their grandchild?
Tennessee family courts will allow grandparents to adopt their grandchild if there is proof that the child’s wellbeing is at stake with their current parents or if both parents are deceased. If the grandparents believe that they are the appropriate choice to adopt the child, the grandparent adoption process may begin.
Just like stepparent adoptions, grandparent adoptions require written consent from the biological parents stating that they can adopt the child and that they are terminating their parental rights. If they agree to do this, a court hearing will still be held to determine and approve the adoption.
If a parent has to be forced to terminate their rights, there will need to be significant proof that the parent is unfit, and the child is in danger by remaining with them. This usually requires showing that the child has been physically or mentally harmed by the parent.
Keep in mind that the difference between a grandparent adoption and a stepparent adoption is the fact that grandparent adoptions require both parents to terminate their rights.
If the parents are no longer alive, the court will request proof showing that neither parent is alive, and it is in the best interest of the child to live and be cared for by the grandparents.
What if I want to adopt a child who is not a family member?
Deciding to adopt a child who is not related to you but needs a loving home is an incredible and life-changing decision. Even though there are many rewarding parts of raising and caring for a child, the process of adoption can be long, challenging, and difficult to go through. However, our Knoxville attorneys at the Law Offices of LaFevor & Slaughter are well-versed and experienced when it comes to the laws surrounding non-family member adoptions and will ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible for you.
To apply for adoption in Tennessee, you must meet the following requirements:
- You are 21 years of age or older
- You are a resident of Tennessee
- You work full-time
- You own or rent a home
- You can take care of your/your family’s needs financially and emotionally
The Knoxville adoption attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter are always happy to help people who want to provide a child with a safe and caring home. We are not only experienced when it comes to adoption cases, but we also have the skills and knowledge to assist our clients with overcoming the obstacles that stand in their way of achieving these goals. If you are ready to get started, we encourage you to call our Knoxville office or submit our contact form.