Is Adoption Right for your family?
Many step-parents play a large role in the life of their step-children. At some point, the step-parent and his/her spouse decide that formal adoption is necessary to legalize the bond which already exists between the step-parent and child. Step-parent adoptions in Tennessee are considered relative adoptions under the adoption statutes. This classification as a “relative” permits the Court to waive a home study and six month waiting period. When a step-parent decides to adopt the child of his/her spouse, the child is viewed by law as though born to the step-parent. In turn, should the step-parent and biological parent of the child divorce after a step-parent has formally adopted the child of the biological parent, he/she is entitled to the same child support and child custody considerations as the biological parent. As with all adoptions, the rights of the biological parent not involved in the child’s life must be terminated prior to formalizing the adoption even if the biological parent whose rights are to be terminated is not listed on the birth certificate.
More and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Often, grandparents will decide it is in their grandchildren’s best interests for the grandchildren to be formally adopted. The biological parents’ rights to the children must be terminated or the biological parents must consent to the termination or adoption. As with step-parent adoptions, there is no formal waiting period or requirement for a formal homestudy. Grandparents and step-parents are not the only relatives who may chose to adopt. T.C.A. 36-1-104(42) defines relatives as grandparents or any degree of great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, or any degree of aunts or uncles, or step-parent or cousins of the first degree or any siblings of the whole or half degree or any spouse of the above listed relative.
Many couples choose to utilize an agency to adopt overseas. Commonly, couples are required to obtain physical custody in the child’s home country and the biological parents rights are terminated in the child’s custody of origin. Once the child has been in the United States Six (6) months, the child’s adoption can be formalized here in the States. International adoptions finalized in Tennessee require a formal home study. If the child is adopted in his/her country of birth, some parents choose to readopt in the United States for record purposes.
Private adoptions are adoptions that take place without an agency other than the agency who conducts the homestudy. In private adoptions the child must be in the physical custody of the child’s prospective adoptive parents for at least Six (6) months before the adoption is formalized. The biological parents’ rights may be terminated sooner than the formalization of the adoption leaving the prospective adoptive parents as guardians of the child to be adopted. Termination often occurs in these types of cases by surrender and/or consent to termination. In private adoptions it is imperative to for prospective adoptive parents to obtain a thorough homestudy and to be led by a knowledgable lead attorney. Failing to correctly handle an adoption can have longterm devastating effects for both children and prospective adoptive parents.
How much will an adoption cost?
There is no simple answer. Agreed relative adoptions where the biological parents consent are obviously much less expensive than, for example, an international adoption where travel and out-of-country agencies are involved. The cost of a homestudy can vary greatly from agency to agency and other variables, such as travel costs for your attorney, Guardian Ad Litem fees, if applicable and medical expenses for a birth mother without insurance impact the cost of an adoption. Our firm does offer free initial consultations so that families may weigh their options and make informed decisions before committing to the process of adoption.
What should I look for in an adoption attorney?
Competency is the first and foremost quality you should seek in an adoption attorney. Mrs. Burton has been a family law attorney for over Twelve (12) years. Her practice is devoted to families whether it is assisting families who are divorcing and working through how to parent as divorced parents or assisting prospective parents who want to adopt. Adoption is a wonderful legal tool to unite children with loving and caring parents. However, the law is very tedious in the area of adoption practice and you should be leary of attorneys who do not respect the adoption process.