Our Knoxville Adoption Lawyers can help your family grow.
Placing a child in a loving home is a happy time and rewarding experience – our Knoxville, TN adoption attorneys have vast experience in all aspects of the Tennessee adoption process. We represent adoptive parents, foster parents, birth parents, relatives, and adoption agencies in all legal matters related to adoption.
How is Adoption Defined in Tennessee?
Adoption is the legal, statutory process to permanently transfer the parental rights and responsibilities from the child’s biological family to an adoptive family.
When people are considering adoption, they often have a range of questions and concerns. These can vary based on individual circumstances, but some common questions include:
- What are the different types of adoption available?
- What are the eligibility criteria for adoption?
- How long does the adoption process typically take?
- What are the financial costs associated with adoption, including legal fees and any other expenses?
- What are the legal rights and responsibilities of adoptive parents?
- What is the process for finding and selecting a suitable adoption agency or adoption professional?
- What are the potential challenges and risks associated with adoption, such as the child’s background, health history, or behavioral issues?
- How can one prepare emotionally for the adoption process and the adjustment period after bringing the child home?
- What resources and support systems are available for adoptive families, including counseling services and support groups?
- How can one navigate potential cultural or racial differences between the child and the adoptive family?
- What are the options for open or closed adoptions, and what are the implications of each?
- What is the process for finalizing the adoption, including any necessary legal proceedings or requirements?
- What are the rights of the biological parents in the adoption process, and how does this impact the adoptive family?
- How can one ensure that the adopted child has access to information about their background and biological family, if desired?
- What is the post-adoption process like, including any follow-up visits, counseling, or support from the adoption agency or social services?
These are some common questions that people may have when considering adoption. It’s important for those interested in adoption to research thoroughly, consult with professionals, and consider all aspects involved in the adoption process.
How do I adopt a child in Tennessee?
The adoption laws vary from state to state. There are generally two types of adoption for minor children who are not related to the adoptive parent(s): agency adoptions and private or independent adoptions. Furthermore, if the biological parents are unable to parent safely, a foster child in foster care may be adopted by foster parents or relatives (the time period is determined by state law).
What are the different types of adoption in Tennessee?
You have a few different options when you are ready to adopt a child in Tennessee. Parents can go through the Tennessee foster care system to adopt a child, which is a public option in Tennessee. If you currently have a foster child and you wish to adopt – you will be given preference. According to the state of Tennessee, foster parents “are dually approved to adopt, which means they have the first option of adopting a child they have fostered, or another child who has become eligible for adoption.”
Private options for adopting take place through an adoption agency or non-profit. Additionally, you can arrange an independent adoption between you and the birth parents. It is crucial to consult with a lawyer if you are considering a private adoption to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.
How does an agency adoption work?
Parents who adopt through an agency work with a state-licensed agency. It is common for agencies to supervise the care of biological mothers who are willing to place their children for adoption, as well as to assist in the placement of children after birth. There are some agencies that place foreign-born children.
How does private adoption work?
A private adoption avoids the use of agencies, and it may allow you to avoid long waiting lists. People who want to adopt begin the process by contacting an adoption lawyer. In some cases, lawyers work with physicians who know women who are willing to give up children for adoption. Women who are willing to place their babies for adoption are sometimes advertised in newspapers or online by would-be parents.
Some states allow adoptive parents to cover medical expenses and other pregnancy-related expenses for a biological mother. However, it is illegal for adoptive parents to pay the biological mother for giving up a child. This is a black-market adoption, or the buying and selling of children, and it is a crime in every state.
What are the parental requirements in Tennessee?
There are several requirements to adopt a child in the state of Tennessee. For adoption to proceed, a residence in Tennessee must be maintained for at least six months. Second, adoptees must have had physical custody of the child to start with or be able to show the court that they have the right to receive physical custody of the child. Third, a home study must be completed.
Most potential parents must undergo a home study to determine if the home is an appropriate place for the child. However, instances in which a home study may be waived, occur when the potential parents are also foster parents to the child or the home has already been approved. When approval is present, it comes as part of a prior case.
In order for the home to be approved, it must be demonstrated that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Many families are eligible to become parents. Likewise, there are currently no prohibitions against same-sex couples or other individuals from pursuing adoption. If you are ready to begin the legal process, I am ready to help you get started. To learn more about how we may serve your family, please set up a call or free consultation.
Who may adopt?
- U.S. citizens & non-citizens may adopt
- Single people and married people may adopt
- Straight and gay people may adopt
- People 18 years of age and older may adopt
- Adoption petitioners must have physical custody at the time they file the petition for adoption
Who may not adopt?
- One member of a married couple cannot adopt without the other spouse adopting as well
- Two unmarried people cannot adopt the same child
- A non-related person without a home study
Who can be adopted?
Tennessee allows the adoption of anyone, regardless of birthplace, citizenship, or location. A federal law prohibits agencies receiving federal funds from requiring children to wait for adoption for racial matching purposes.
**Non-U.S. citizens may be adopted in Tennessee, adoption by U.S. citizens will not necessarily mean that the adopted person, adult or child, is then eligible to become a U.S. citizen. Those seeking to adopt to obtain an immigration advantage should consult an immigration lawyer before pursuing adoption.
What is an adoption home study?
An adoption home study is one of the biggest fears of prospective adoption parents.
According to American Adoptions, you can expect the following in Tennessee, the home study for adoption includes:
- At least one visit to the home
- Reference letters for adoption
- Health examinations
- Verification of marital status
- Interviews with all members of the family residing in the household
During the adoption home study you will likely discuss:
- Your motivation to adopt
- Your ability to provide for a child
- Your character, values and ethical standards
- Your physical and mental health
- The health and fire safety conditions of your home
How long does the adoption process take in Tennessee?
The adoption process can be tedious – the adoption process in Tennessee can take from a couple weeks to a couple years. Some factors that control the timeline will include the type of adoption you choose. We can help you understand how long the process will take and what the adoption timeline might look for you based on your unique circumstances.
How much does it cost to adopt a child in Tennessee?
The cost of adoption will vary in Tennessee based on the type of adoption you choose. According to Nashville Parent – in most cases, domestic adoptions cost anywhere from $0 to $35,000, with most agencies charging around $12,000 for a variety of services that can include home study fees, placement fees, legal fees, counseling expenses and medical costs.
Adoption is an essential option for some families, whether it is by choice or necessity. Adoptions are also governed by law, just as most things in life are. Throughout the process, it is important to have the proper professional legal advice, most likely both from a lawyer and a mental health professional like a social worker.
Can I get a federal adoption tax credit?
The federal government provides a tax credit for various types of adoptions. To determine the specifics, it is recommended that you refer to the IRS publication titled “Adoption Tax Credit Information”. Generally, the following adoption scenarios are eligible for a federal tax credit:
Special Needs Adoptions
This type of adoption may allow for a tax credit that exceeds the amount spent on the adoption process.
State Agency Adoptions
In Tennessee, this refers to adoptions through the Department of Children’s Services. Such adoptions may qualify for a tax credit that exceeds the expenses incurred during the adoption.
Private or Independent Adoptions
Adoptions facilitated by private individuals or organizations can potentially qualify for the federal adoption tax credit.
Adoptions conducted through licensed agencies are typically eligible for the tax credit.
Relative Adoptions (excluding step parent adoptions)
When adopting a relative, except in the case of a step parent adoption, you may be eligible for the federal tax credit.
Only finalized intercountry adoptions are eligible for the federal tax credit.
On the other hand, the following types of adoptions are generally not eligible for the federal adoption tax credit
- Adoptions related to surrogacy arrangements
- Step parent adoptions
- Adult adoptions
**It is crucial to consult with a Tennessee attorney who has expertise in adoption law to receive advice tailored to your specific circumstances. The information provided here is a general overview and should not be considered a substitute for professional legal guidance.
Is a lawyer necessary when adopting?
If there are no complications with the adoption, you can probably fill out the paperwork on your own or with the assistance of an adoption agency. However, the use of a lawyer can be indispensable – an adoption attorneys experience can help you avoid pitfalls and mistakes in the process. Additionally, hiring an attorney will help you navigate the adoption process and help avoid setbacks – an adoption attorney can be of significant help throughout the entire adoption process.
Does adoption require court approval?
Yes – for both private and agency adoptions, a court approval is required. In many states, adoptive parents must also be screened and approved by a social service agency before they can adopt.
Once a child is adopted, an adopted child has exactly the same rights as a biological child. In addition, adoptive parents have the same obligations to the child as they would to a biological child.
What rights and responsibilities do biological parents retain when they give up a child for adoption?
Generally, they lose all rights and obligations. They are not permitted to contact the child or obtain information about the child. Furthermore there is no obligation on their part to support the child.
What expenses can be paid to a birth mother?
When considering the expenses that can be paid to a birth mother in the context of adoption, it is crucial to consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with the law. In general, prospective adoptive parents may provide financial support for the birth mother’s living expenses, but there are strict limitations on the types and duration of such payments.
During the pregnancy and up to 90 days after the birth of the baby, the birth mother may receive reasonable and actual expenses related to housing, utilities, transportation, maternity clothes, and food. These payments are intended to assist the birth mother during this period and should be directly related to her well-being and the pregnancy.
Furthermore, if the birth mother seeks counseling, the prospective adoptive parents are typically required to cover the costs of counseling for a period of up to two years. Similarly, if the birth mother chooses to have legal representation, the prospective adoptive parents are generally responsible for providing an attorney for her. Additionally, customary practice dictates that the prospective adoptive parents cover medical expenses for the birth mother and the baby, which are not covered by insurance.
It is important to note that while licensed adoption agencies may have fewer restrictions on the expenses they can cover, it is not a common practice for them to do so. However, it is essential to emphasize that paying any expenses which are not explicitly listed or authorized by the law may result in severe legal consequences. Engaging in such unauthorized payments is considered illegal and may be classified as a Class C felony, carrying potential penalties of imprisonment for 3-15 years and fines up to a maximum of $15,000.00.
Moreover, it is crucial to be aware that compensating an intermediary who is not a licensed child-placing agency, such as a facilitator, for matching the birth mother with the adoptive parents is also deemed illegal in Tennessee.
**While this information provides a general understanding of the permissible expenses in an adoption context, it should not be solely relied upon for making any payments. Consulting a qualified attorney is highly recommended to ensure compliance with the specific laws and regulations governing adoption proceedings.
How are parental rights terminated voluntarily?
When it comes to voluntarily terminating parental rights, there are several methods in place. In Tennessee, a man who is not listed on the child’s birth certificate or married to the mother can opt to sign a Waiver of Interest prior to the child’s birth. This document, specified in the Tennessee Code, becomes immediately irrevocable upon signing and is considered a valid termination of parental rights if followed by an adoption. However, to sign the Waiver, the birth father must first see a statement from the mother acknowledging him as the child’s father.
In cases where a legal father is not the biological father, he can choose to sign a Denial of Paternity, also outlined in the Tennessee Code. This document, signed before the birth if preferred, becomes immediately irrevocable. By providing credible proof, such as a sworn statement from the mother or DNA testing, that he is not the biological father, the legal father can avoid the need for consent or termination of parental rights.
For birth mothers, legal fathers, or biological fathers, there is the option of signing a “surrender” consent form before a judge or chancellor. This particular form, detailed in the Tennessee Code, allows for a 3-day revocation period. Once this period has passed, the surrender becomes irrevocable unless there is evidence of fraud or duress. An approved home study and physical custody of the child are required for adoptive parents to accept a surrender. The surrender can take place in any county before a chancellor, circuit judge, or juvenile judge, and in certain circumstances, government officials from other states, countries, or prisons may also preside over the surrender process.
In the case of an adoption by a relative or step-parent, a birth parent may choose to sign the petition for adoption as a Co-Petitioner. This method, commonly used in step-parent or relative adoptions, involves signing the adoption petition before a notary.
**It is important to note that individuals who are not lawyers should refrain from procuring adoption consent documents and presenting them for signature by parents. This approach is unlikely to result in a valid consent for adoption, as the requirements for each type of consent are specific and strict. The process of securing consent for adoption is complex, and attempting an ineffective method may even be counterproductive.
Whose parental rights must be terminated?
To determine whose parental rights must be terminated, it is essential to consider the following circumstances:
The parental rights of the mother and her husband (if married within 300 days of the child’s birth) must be terminated in order for the child to be eligible for adoption.
Guardians appointed under the adoption code
If there are any guardians appointed for the child under the adoption code, their parental rights would need to be terminated before the adoption can proceed.
Man declared as the father by the adoption court
If a man has been declared as the father of the child by the adoption court after the petition to adopt has been filed but before the adoption is finalized, his parental rights must also be terminated.
Putative biological father
Whether a man is considered a putative father, meaning he has a potential claim to biological paternity, requires professional advice from an attorney knowledgeable in Tennessee adoption law, and ultimately the determination will be made by a judge.
It is important to note that the parental rights of certain individuals need not be terminated
- A man whose petition for paternity has been denied
- A person who is deceased
- A sperm donor, but only in specific limited situations
- A man who is listed on the birth certificate due to the mother falsely stating they were married, but whom a court has determined is neither the legal nor biological father of the child
- An unknown birth father and certain inactive biological fathers who are not legal or putative fathers. The final determination of their rights can only be made by an attorney and ultimately a judge
Contact A Knoxville Adoption Attorney
Our Knoxville adoption lawyers are dedicated to helping you complete your adoption in a timely and cost-effective manner. Adopting a child is a happy time and we will work hard to ensure that every detail is covered so that you can welcome your new child into your home and family. To schedule a consultation with a Tennessee adoption lawyer – contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation.