How to Obtain Guardianship of a Minor in Tennessee

For a variety of reasons, you may find yourself in a position where you need to obtain legal “custody” over a minor child. Whether the child is your grandchild, niece/nephew, or the child of a friend, navigating the legal system to gain guardianship of a minor can be a complex and emotionally taxing process. In Tennessee, specific procedures and requirements must be followed to ensure the welfare of the child in question. Understanding the steps involved is crucial to successfully obtaining guardianship. While it is always best to work with an experienced attorney throughout the process, a Murfreesboro family law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby offers some general guidance regarding how to obtain guardianship of a minor in Tennessee.

Understanding Guardianship

Guardianship is a legal arrangement where an adult assumes responsibility for a minor child who is not their biological child. This arrangement ischild-castody-banner typically sought when the child’s biological parents are unable to care for them for any of a variety of reasons, including death, incapacity, or abandonment. The guardian is entrusted with the legal authority to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, healthcare, finances, and other important matters. 

Guardianship Basics in Tennessee

Guardianship of a minor in Tennessee is predominantly governed by Tennessee Code §34-2-102. According to that statute, a petition for the appointment of a guardian may be filed by any person having knowledge of the circumstances necessitating the appointment of a guardian; however, the court shall consider the following persons in the order listed for appointment of the guardian:

  1. The parent or parents of the minor.
  2. The person or persons designated by the parent or parents in a will or other written document.
  3. Adult siblings of the minor.
  4. Closest relative or relatives of the minor.
  5. Other person or persons.

If a minor child is already a ward of the State of Tennessee or is at risk of becoming a ward of the State, subsidized guardianship may be an option. Contact the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to learn more about how subsidized guardianship works.

Steps to Obtaining Guardianship of a Minor in Tennessee

The guardianship process can be emotionally exhausting for everyone involved. It can also be time-consuming and costly. Understanding the steps involved will help you navigate the process more efficiently and effectively. Because every situation is unique, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to ensure a positive outcome when petitioning for guardianship of a minor in Tennessee; however, common steps involved in the process include:

  1. Filing the Petition: The first step in the guardianship process is to file a petition with the appropriate court. In Tennessee, the petition for guardianship is filed in the juvenile or probate court in the county where the minor is a resident or where the minor’s parent(s) is a legal resident at the time the petition is filed. To ensure that the court has jurisdiction over the matter, consult with an experienced attorney before deciding where to file your petition. The petition should include detailed information about the Petitioner, the minor child, an explanation of why the child needs a guardian, and reasons why the Petitioner should be appointed as the child’s guardian.
  2. Service of Notice: Once the petition has been filed, the court will require that notice be served to all interested parties, including the minor child’s parents if applicable. Any party entitled to notice is also entitled to oppose the appointment of a guardian and/or the appointment of the Petitioner as guardian. To formally object, a party must file the appropriate documents with the court.
  3. Background Check and Home Study: The court may require the petitioner to undergo a background check and participate in a home study to assess their suitability as a guardian. This process helps the court ensure that the child will be placed in a safe and stable environment. If you are concerned about anything in your background, ask your attorney if it will present a problem.
  4. Court Hearing: Eventually, a court hearing will be scheduled wherein the Petitioner, and any other interested parties will present testimony and evidence to help the court determine whether guardianship is in the best interests of the child and, if so, whether the Petitioner is an appropriate person to appoint as guardian. 
  5. Court Order: If the court grants the petition for guardianship, the court will issue an Order outlining the terms and conditions of the guardianship arrangement. Typically, this includes details regarding custody, visitation rights for the child’s parents, financial arrangements, and any other relevant provisions.

Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney 

If you are interested in obtaining guardianship of a minor in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro family law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael