How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Tennessee: 3 Things You Must Know

Tennessee adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in Tennessee?

To adopt a stepchild in Tennessee, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.

adopting a stepchild in Tennessee

For a variety of reasons, a stepparent may decide to adopt their stepchild in Tennessee, including:

  • To create a formal parent-child relationship with the child, which might grant the stepparent legal parental rights and obligations, such as the authority to decide on the welfare, education, and medical care of the child.
  • In order to establish a long-lasting, officially acknowledged bond between the child and their stepparent in order to provide them with a sense of security and stability.
  • Giving the child the same legal protections and advantages as a biological child, including the ability to inherit property and receive social security benefits and health insurance coverage from the stepparent.
  • If wanted, give the child a new last name.
  • Establish a formal parent-child relationship with the stepparent in order to make the youngster feel more loved and secure.
  • By incorporating them into the family legally, to deepen the relationship between the child and the stepparent.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Tennessee

To adopt your stepchild in Tennessee you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

To adopt a stepchild in Tennessee, a lawyer is not necessary. Although the procedure can be completed without legal counsel, it is important to consider hiring one for the following reasons:

  • Adopting a stepchild can be a challenging process, and a lawyer can guide you through the necessary paperwork and legal requirements.
  • An attorney can offer direction and counsel on the legal aspects of adoption, ensuring that the procedure is carried out properly and that the rights of the adopted child are respected.
  • Adoptive parents can be represented in court by an attorney, who will also work to ensure that the adoption procedure is carried out without incident.
  • A lawyer can help the parties understand their legal rights and obligations as they relate to the adoption process, as well as defend their interests and the interests of the adoptive parent and the child.
  • A lawyer will be able to bargain with other parties, such as the biological father, and assist in resolving any problems that may come up during the adoption process.

Although it is possible to adopt a stepchild in Tennessee without employing a lawyer, it is strongly advised to think about doing so in order to make sure the procedure is carried out properly, legally, and in order to protect the interests of all parties.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Tennessee.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents in Tennessee who want to adopt their stepchild may inquire about the procedure with their local courthouse. Stepparents can start the adoption procedure by using court form packets that may be available from the local courthouse.

The petition for adoption, permission papers, and any other relevant documents are normally included in these packets, together with all the instructions and other paperwork needed to complete the adoption procedure.

It is significant to note that because each county may have distinct adoption criteria, the forms may vary based on the county.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Tennessee, a stepparent who wants to adopt a child can get the necessary paperwork through a service. By searching the internet for “stepparent adoption forms,” you’ll find these services. In most cases, these businesses include Tennessee-specific court forms that can be utilized to start the adoption process.

Stepparent adoption court form services simply offer court forms and might fill them out for you; however, they do not offer legal counsel.

Bear in mind that hiring legal counsel is always advised because they can make sure that everything is done properly and that the adopted child’s rights are upheld.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Tennessee.

Adoption Process

In Tennessee, there is a legal procedure that enables a stepparent to adopt their stepchild and therefore acquire parental rights and obligations. The process normally involves getting the biological parent’s approval, finishing a home study, and showing up in court for the final adoption hearing.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

The first stage in the adoption process for stepparents adopting their stepchildren in Tennessee is the filing of the Petition for Adoption. The stepparent and stepchild’s home county is where the petition must be filed.

The petition is a formal document that calls for particular details regarding the biological parent, the stepparent, and the stepchild.

The following details must be included in the petition:

  • The stepparent’s and stepchild’s complete names and addresses
  • The dynamics of the stepparent-stepchild relationship
  • The biological parent’s name, as well as how they are related to the stepchild
  • The motivations behind the adoption search
  • Any additional facts the court should be aware of
  • The stepparent must sign the petition, and it must be submitted with the required filing fee.

A hearing date will be set by the court following the petition’s submission.

The biological parent will be informed of the hearing date by the court, and they are free to show up on that day and contest the adoption if they so wish.

Home Study and Background Check

Two crucial elements in the adoption process for stepparents adopting their stepchildren in Tennessee are the home study and background check. The home study looks into the stepparent’s living situation, residence, and suitability as a stepparent.

The stepparent’s criminal and child abuse past is investigated as part of the background investigation.

A licensed social worker normally conducts the home study, visiting the stepparent’s residence and interviewing the stepparent, the stepchild, and any other members of the household.

The social worker will also watch how the stepparent and stepchild interact and evaluate the stepparent’s parenting style, living situation, and capacity to meet the stepchild’s needs.

The Department of Children’s Services will do a background investigation into the stepparent’s criminal past and any history of child abuse or neglect.

The court will be presented with the findings of the home study and background investigation, which will be taken into account when deciding whether or not to approve the adoption.

The background investigation and home study procedures might take weeks or even months to complete.

The social worker needs the stepparents’ full cooperation, thus they must deliver all required information and paperwork on time.

Consent of the Biological Parent

A consent form, which is a legally binding statement that the biological parent has been informed of the adoption process and has given their consent to the adoption, must be signed by the biological parent.

In the presence of a notary public or a court representative, the permission form must be signed.

Sometimes you don’t need the biological parent’s permission.

The court may decide to forego the need for permission in certain circumstances, such as when the biological parent has passed away, had their parental rights terminated, or is incapable of giving consent because of their incapacity.

The court will hold a hearing to decide if the adoption should be approved if the biological parent does not consent.

The court will take the child’s best interests into account and may approve the adoption if it is determined to be in the child’s best interests.

Remember that the other parent’s approval is not necessary if one parent has abandoned the child for at least six months or has been behind bars for at least a year.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

Another crucial stage in the adoption process for stepparents adopting their stepchildren in Tennessee is the termination of the biological parent’s rights. The legal process of terminating the biological parent’s rights and obligations toward the child is involved in this phase.

The rights of the biological parent are typically terminated willingly by their agreement to the adoption.

However, under some circumstances, it could be necessary to voluntarily terminate the biological parent’s rights.

This might happen if the child’s biological parent is incapable of caring for them, refuses to do so, or has ignored or abandoned them.

If it is determined that terminating the biological parent’s rights is in the child’s best interests, the court will take it into account.

Finalization of the Adoption

The final step in the adoption process for stepparents adopting their stepchildren in Tennessee is called “Finalization of the Adoption.” In this stage, the court formally approves the adoption, designating the stepparent as the child’s legal parent with all of the rights and obligations of a biological parent.

The court will set a finalization hearing when the adoption petition has been submitted, the home study and background check have been finished, the biological parent has given their consent, and their parental rights have been terminated.

The court will analyze the adoption paperwork at this hearing before deciding whether or not to approve the adoption.

The court will approve the adoption and issue a final adoption decree if it determines that it is in the child’s best interests.

The stepparent can request a new birth certificate for the child when the adoption is finalized, which will list the stepparent as the child’s parent and change the child’s last name to reflect the stepparent’s last name.

After the adoption is finalized, a permanent legal link between the stepparent and the child is established.

The final adoption decree is a legal document that ends the child’s legal relationship with the biological parent and formally names the stepparent as the child’s legal parent.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?

You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.

It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.

Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.

Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Tennessee

Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.

If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit Tennessee Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.

Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.

Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.

You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.

Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.

Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent

Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.

How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.

There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.

If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.

When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations. Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.

What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption? States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child.

However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.

States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.

A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?

Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their home? Many things can deem a parent unfit.

For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.

If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.

However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.

Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them

Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.

Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.

I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!

And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.

And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.

What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Tennessee?

Prior to permitting an adoption to take place, a home study or home study is a screening of the home and lives of potential adoptive parents.

A home study is needed by legislation in some countries, as well as in all international adoptions. Even though it isn’t legally needed, an adoption agency may insist on it.

In Tennessee, all prospective adoptive parents must have a home study authorized before they may adopt unless they are a stepparent or are closely related to the kid.

Even relatives and step-parents must ask the court to waive the home study. Waivers for relatives and step-parents are common but not universal. A home study is good for one year. 

If an adoption placement becomes available after a year, your home study agency may be prepared to amend your home study to bring it up to date rather than requiring a new one.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Tennessee?

A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Tennessee. Younger children are not required to give their consent.

You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.

Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.

Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.

Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?

Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to.

Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.

Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in Tennessee?

Under citation Ann. Code §§ 36-1-110; 36-1-117, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Tennessee involves the following.

The following persons must be made parties to an adoption proceeding:

  • The parent, the legal parent, or the guardian
  • The putative biological father of the child

The parent, legal parent, guardian, or putative biological father of the child shall not be made a party to the adoption proceeding if he or she:

  • Has surrendered parental or guardianship rights to the child
  • Has executed a parental consent that has been confirmed by the court
  • Has waived his or her rights or has had his or her rights terminated by the order of a court of competent jurisdiction

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.