Adoption is the legal process by which a child legally becomes part of a non-biological family through court action. The adoption process is two-fold: 1) terminating the parental rights of a biological parent and 2) establishing a parent-child relationship with the adoptive parent. In this process, Courts are required to terminate the parental rights of a biological parent based on consent or certain statutory grounds.
Sometimes this is accomplished by agreement through a legal process called “parental consent” or “surrender”. Sometimes the termination of parental rights is accomplished through a contested hearing. The hearing and appeals can take many months or even years. Courts then make a determination that the adoption is in the best interest of the minor child being adopted.
With all Tennessee adoptions, other than relative adoptions, the child must be in the physical custody of the adoptive parents for six months prior to the finalization of the adoption. Once the adoption has been approved and finalized, the parents who have adopted the child will have the same legal rights as the birth parents of said child. Additionally, the adopted child has the same rights and benefits that it would have if it was actually born to those parents. In Tennessee, an adopted child is issued a new birth certificate naming the adoptive parent as a legal parent of the child.
Types of Adoption
Adoptions can be divided into various types based on a number of factors. Each adoption type has specific requirements and hurdles. The types of adoptions in Tennessee are:
Step-parent adoption: The most common form of adoption in Tennessee. In most cases, the minor child has lived with the person filing for step-parent adoption, and the adopting step-parent has been a major part in the child’s life for some time; the step-parent has been acting in loco parentis, i.e. as a parent. The formal adoption process is merely a legality.
Relative adoption: Tennessee law defines relatives as grandparents or any degree of great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, or any degree of great aunts or uncles, or step-parent or cousins of the first degree or any siblings of the whole or half degree or any spouse of the above-listed relatives.
State adoptions: The child is in state custody. The child is placed in a foster home, which is often the home of the prospective adoptive parents.
Private adoptions: The child is placed in a family with or without an adoption agency for the purposes of adoption.
International adoptions: Children are generally in orphanages in foreign countries. Foreign adoptions are a two-step process: 1) adoption in the foreign country, and 2) re-adoption of the child once the child is in the United States.
Adult Adoption: the person being adopted is over the age of eighteen and consents to the adoption.
Surrogacy/Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART)–child is being conceived through in vitro fertilization and will be either carried by a surrogate or will be carried by the adoptive mother.
If you have questions about the adoption process or need legal counsel to secure the adoption of a loved one, contact the adoption lawyer Memphis, TN trusts at Wiseman Bray to discuss your options.