Murfreesboro family law attorney

Can I Adopt My Step-Child?

Murfreesboro family law attorneyWith the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent in the United States, the once rare blended family has become the norm.  The role that a step-parent plays in the life of a child can vary dramatically. Sometimes, when the child’s other biological parent is effectively out of the picture, a step-parent can become the second parent for all intents and purposes. If that is the case in your blended family, you may wish to formalize the relationship you and your step-child already feel exists through adoption. A Murfreesboro family law attorney explains the basics of step-parent adoption in Tennessee.

Tennessee Adoption Basics

The State of Tennessee recognizes several different types of adoptions, including birth mother adoption, agency adoption, international adoption, and family adoption. There are a few requirements for any type of adoption, such as being a resident of Tennessee, 21 years of age or older, and being able to meet the financial and emotional needs of the child. For the most part, a step-parent adoption follows the same process as any other type of adoption, with a couple of important exceptions. With other types of adoption, there is a mandatory waiting period of six months from the time the petition to adopt is filed with the court before the adoption can be finalized. In addition, an extensive home study is typically required for an adoption. Both of these requirements can be waived in the case of a step-parent adoption. Because a step-parent adoption is considered a family adoption, the court will usually forego these two requirements based on the fact that the child has already lived in the home for an extended period of time and, therefore, has already formed a strong bond with the step-parent.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

The area wherein parents and step-parents may run into problems when attempting a step-parent adoption is with the other biological parent. That parent’s parental rights must be terminated in order for the step-parent to adopt the child. This requirement can be fulfilled through agreement if the biological parent is amenable. If the biological parent has no real relationship with the child, he/she is frequently more than happy to relinquish parental rights because doing so also gets rid of the parent’s financial obligation to the child. As a general rule court will only allow a parent to relinquish parental rights if there is another parent waiting to step in and accept the responsibilities of a parent. If the biological parent is not willing to voluntarily relinquish his/her parental rights, however, you have a problem. In that case, you must convince the court to terminate the absent parent’s parental rights. In the State of Tennessee, a parent’s rights can only be terminated if one of the following applies:

  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The parent is not complying with the statement of responsibilities in a permanency plan or a plan of care.
  • The child has been removed from the home by court order for six months because of the conditions of the house and it is unlikely the conditions will be remedied
  • The parent committed severe child abuse against the child, child’s sibling, or another child living in the home.
  • He parent has been imprisoned for more than two years for conduct against the child.
  • The parent receives a prison sentence of 10 or more years, and the child is under the age of 8.
  • The parent was convicted or found liable for the intentional and wrongful death of the other parent
  • A court has found the parent incompetent to provide further care of the child.

If you must resort to the court to terminate the biological parent’s rights, you will need to do so at a separate hearing scheduled in front of the court. At that hearing, you must prove that one of the conditions for termination exists and that it is in the child’s best interest to terminate the parent’s rights.

Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney

If you have additional questions or concerns about adopting a step-child in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee family law attorney immediately. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael