Anyone who has been part of the adoption process understands that questions often arise because of the child’s adoptive status. Sometimes a birth parent wants to know if the child is a happy and successful adult. Adoptive parents may want to know more about a birth parent because they are concerned about the physical or mental health of the adoptive child while an adopted child often has questions related to the adoption itself. If you are a member of the adoption triangle (birth parent, adoptive parent, adopted child) who has questions, a Murfreesboro family attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains what you need to know about Tennessee adoption records.
What Records Are Kept When a Child Is Adopted?
While adoption can certainly be an emotional process for those involved, it is always a legal process. The adoptive parent(s) must file a petition with the appropriate court, submit to a home study and various other requirements, and appear for a hearing in court before the court will issue an order finalizing the adoption. The court process alone creates a significant paper trail related to the adoption. If the adoption involved an adoption agency, private attorney, or a child who was a ward of the State of Tennessee at the time of the adoption, there will be additional documents related to the adoption. In all cases, Tennessee Code 68-3-310 requires the State Registrar to issue a new birth certificate for a person born in Tennessee upon receipt of a certified copy of the final decree of adoption. That means that every adopted child who was born in Tennessee will have an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate showing their name after adoption.
Who Can Access Adoption Records?
While the State of Tennessee does allow the release of adoption records, only certain people can access those records. The adoptee must be at least 21 years old for adoption records to be released to anyone. The following people may have access to adoption records in Tennessee:
- Adoptees. If you are an adult adoptee (over the age of 21) you are entitled to full access to your own records unless there is an indication of rape or incest in the record. In that case, the birth mother must be contacted and consent to the release of the records.
- Birth mother. If you are a birth mother, you may be entitled to access to adoption records if you voluntarily terminated your parental rights. If your parental rights were involuntarily terminated, you are not entitled to access. In addition, if you were found guilty of a crime against the adoptee you are not entitled to access, even if you voluntarily relinquished your rights. Finally, the adoptee must consent to the release of adoption records to a birth parent.
- Birth fathers. For a birth father to be entitled to access to adoption records, there must be proof within the records that he is the father. For example, your name must be on a court document or a birth certificate or you must have proactively claimed paternity during the adoption process.
- Siblings. Siblings over the age of 21 may be entitled to access to adoption records; however, the adoptee must be over the age of 21 and must consent to the release of the records. A sibling is not entitled to access if he/she was guilty of a crime against the adoptee.
- Children of the adoptee. If you are the adult child (over the age of 21) of an adoptee, you may be entitled to access to the adoption records if the adoptee (your parent) consents to the release.
A note for adoptive parents: You will not be notified when someone requests access to adoption records.
What Records Can Be Accessed?
Complete access to the adoption records is available to those who are entitled by law to access adoption records and who have obtained the consent of the adoptee (if necessary). Complete access means you can access all the records associated with the adoption, including things such as birth family information, medical information, and birth information as well as all court documents.
If you are otherwise entitled to access but cannot obtain the consent of the adoptee, you may only be able to access non-identifying information related to the adoption. This includes things such as medical information and descriptions of birth parents (height, weight, and ethnicity).
How Do I Request Adoption Records?
To access adoption records from the State of Tennessee you need to fill out and submit a Request for Access to Sealed Adoption Records/Release of Information and Other Services. As of 2022, there is a $150 fee for requesting access to a complete sealed adoption record and a $45 fee for non-identifying information only. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.
Contact a Murfreesboro Family Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about accessing adoption records in the State of Tennessee, contact a Murfreesboro family attorney to discuss your options. Contact the team at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.