Statistics tell us that about half of all marriages end in divorce and between 50 and 60 percent of those people remarry. When children are involved in a divorce, getting remarried becomes much more complicated because it creates a blended family. Not all blended families work out as planned; however, some work out even better than expected. The bond between a step-parent and a child can be every bit as strong as that of a biological parent and child. In fact, sometimes it is even stronger. As a step-parent, however, a parent does not have the same legal standing as a biological parent. One way to fix that, and to solidify the bond that has formed between a step-parent and a child, is for the step-parent to adopt the child. If you have made the decision to formalize the relationship you have with your step-child through adoption, you may be wondering if you need an adoption attorney to assist you in the State of Tennessee.
Who Can Adopt a Child in Tennessee?
The only legal requirements for adopting a child in the State of Tennessee is that the adoptive parent must be at least 18 years old and must be a resident of Tennessee for at least six months prior to petitioning to adopt. In addition, most prospective parent must go through a home study along with completing any other requirements set by the adoption agency and/or the court.
What Is the Procedure for Adopting a Child in Tennessee?
Because there are different types of adoption, and because every adoption is unique, there are some differences in the procedure or adoption in Tennessee. For example, if you were to go through an adoption agency there would be several steps required of you before you get the green light to initiate the legal process of adoption. For all adoptions, however, a petition must be filed with the appropriate court to get the adoption process started. Before any child can be adopted though, the parental rights of the child’s biological parent(s) must first be terminated. Often, the parent(s) have already lost their parental rights because of abuse and/or neglect. If the child is a ward of the court, for example, it usually means the child’s parent(s) lost their parental rights and the child is now ready for adoption.
How Is Adopting a Step-Child Different?
Adopting a step-child follows the same general process as adopting any other child; however, it can be much faster because you may be able to skip some of the steps. The adoption home study required in most adoptions, for example, may not be required in a step-parent adoption. In addition, the mandatory six month waiting period is usually waived in a step-parent adoption. The parental rights of the child’s other biological parent, however, must still be terminated prior to, or simultaneously with, the adoption process. If the child’s other parent has not already lost his/her parental rights, you will need to address that issue during the adoption process. The biological parent can voluntarily relinquish his/her parental rights, making the adoption process much simpler for everyone involved. If the biological parent is not willing to voluntarily terminate his/her rights, you will need to convince the court that terminating his/her rights is in the child’s best interest.
Do I Need an Adoption Attorney?
If you wish to adopt you step-child (or children) there is no legal requirement that you be represented by an attorney. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to have an experienced adoption attorney by your side throughout the process to ensure that mistakes are avoided. If the child’s biological parent has not agreed to voluntarily relinquish his/her parental rights, the need for an attorney is heightened given that your ability to adopt your step-child hinges on your ability to convince a judge to terminate the biological parent’s rights.
Contact a Tennessee Adoption Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about adopting your step-child in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee adoption attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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