Maryville Adoption Attorneys Supporting Step-Parent and Relative Adoptions
Serving clients looking to expand their families through adoption throughout eastern Tennessee
Every day in Tennessee relatives step forward and offer to care for a child in their family who is unable to live with their parents whether because the parents have died, are unfit, incarcerated, have abandoned the child or willingly given them up. Kinship adoption allows the child to maintain ties to their family of origin, and states generally give preferences to relatives who are willing and able to make the commitment to attend to the child’s needs for the rest of their life.
At the Shepherd & Associates law firm, we have more than 40 years of combined legal experience helping prospective parents navigate the often complicated but entirely rewarding adoption process. There is no need to be intimidated by the legal process because when you work with us you will have a dependable advocate by your side through every step of the way.
What are the requirements for kinship adoption and step-parent adoption in Tennessee?
Every state has its own legal framework for adoption, and under Tennessee law, the relative must be related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption. A “relative” can be the child’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, great aunts or uncles, or stepparent, cousins of the first degree, or any siblings of the whole or half degree, and the spouse of a relative. The prospective adoptive parent must have primary care of the child whether through an informal family arrangement or through legal custody or guardianship.
The prospective parents must be able to show that they can provide a safe home for the child until they reach legal adulthood.
Addressing parental rights in relative and step-parent adoptions
While the rights of any biological or legal parents must first be terminated before a stepparent or relative adoption may proceed, many of the formalities required in other types of adoptions may be waived in stepparent and relative adoptions.
For example, the judge can and often does waive the requirement for a home study, and there is not a six (6) month waiting period. Also, in relative adoption cases, one or both birth parents often give consent to the adoption by joining in the adoption petition. This makes stepparent and relative adoptions much more affordable for the prospective adoptive parents.
The biological parents can relinquish their parental rights so that the child may be adopted by a stepparent or relative, or the prospective adoptive parents can petition the court to terminate the parent’s rights in cases of abandonment, abuse, neglect, incarceration, failure to support the child or substance abuse.
Legal options for kinship/relative care givers in Tennessee
In addition to adoption we offer legal assistance to relatives who want to open their home to a child relative the full spectrum of legal options available in Tennessee for kinship caregivers:
- Power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal arrangement made between you and the child’s parents which makes you the official caregiver of the child with the authority to make legal, medical and educational decisions on behalf of the child.
- Legal custody. A judge gives you legal custody of the child, which gives you the legal authority to make decisions about the child’s education and medical needs. The custody order may also contain guidelines for parental contact and visitation, and the parents may be required to pay child support.
- Kinship foster care. If the child is already in DCS foster care you can apply to become their foster parent. After a home study, foster parent training and background checks the child may live at home with you. However, DCS and the Child and Family Team will work with you to make decisions about the child’s medical and educational needs.
- Permanent guardianship. The court can grant you permanent guardianship of the child, which gives you most of the same rights as a parent without the need for the parents to terminate their parental rights. The court will determine visitation and the parents’ responsibilities for child support.
Special considerations for stepparent adoptions in Tennessee
Stepparent adoption is quite common, but they can be complicated as it involves the stepparent taking legal and financial responsibility for their spouse’s child, while the child’s other parent relinquishes their parental rights and responsibilities for the child. Working with a knowledgeable adoption attorney is vital when it comes to negotiating a stepparent adoption with the other biological parent is still living and may not be completely on board.
Once the court finalizes the adoption, the child’s birth certificate will be changed to reflect the change and the stepparent becomes the child’s legal parent with all the legal rights and responsibilities that entails.
One thing to keep in mind with a stepparent adoption is that if the parent and the adoptive stepparent later divorce, custody and child support issues would be handled as if the child were a child born of the marriage. This means that an adoptive stepparent could be awarded custody of the child over the biological parent, or that the adoptive stepparent could owe child support to the biological parent.
How can a Maryville adoption lawyer help?
With the opioid crisis in Tennessee, we are seeing increasing numbers of grandparents and other relatives raising their grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. They are often very fearful about the adoption process: the expense, being involved in the court system, and whether they will be able to handle raising a young child. We can help ease those fears by shouldering the legal burden for them. Our experienced Maryville adoption lawyers understand the complexities of kinship and stepparent adoptions and we work to negotiate agreements that are in the best interests of the child.
Schedule a consultation with an experienced Maryville adoption lawyer today
Our adoption lawyers at the law firm of Shepherd and Associates, P.C. are here to support your desire to make a child a part of your family through adoption. We work with you to find creative solutions to any obstacles in your path while we support you in achieving the goal of growing your family. You are encouraged to call us at 865-225-9655 or fill out the contact form on this website to schedule a no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.