Skilled Maryville Adoption Attorneys
Helping make families complete in Blount County & East Tennessee
Adoption is one of the happiest events families can experience, but this type of lifetime commitment also involves a complex legal process. People adopt children for a variety of reasons, and all of those reasons are valid and important. Perhaps you can’t have children of your own, or you want to adopt your spouse’s child, or you have decided to make your foster child a permanent part of your family. No matter the reason, we can help.
The experienced Maryville adoption attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can make a positive difference for you in virtually every step of the process. We have more than four decades of collective experience helping prospective adoptive parents meet federal and state requirements — from the time they file the initial application, through the happy day when they welcome a child into their families. Talk to us today about how we can make the adoption process easier for you.
What are the different types of adoption in Tennessee?
Depending on the circumstances of both the prospective adoptive parents and adoptive child, there are several types of adoption:
Step-parent and relative adoption
Tennessee offers both step-parent and relative adoptions. If a birth parent decides to marry and their new spouse wants to become a legal parent to the child, they can choose this type of adoption. Or, if a blood relative seeks to adopt a minor child, they can also make this choice. Note that, for this type of adoption, you must meet several requirements first, including termination of parental rights, if necessary.
Agency and DCS adoption
Children who are under the guardianship of the state of Tennessee are available for adoption to loving families after an application process, a home study, and other requirements are successfully completed. The Department of Child Services (DCS) also works with approved agencies to train and support foster parents as well as find more permanent solutions, including agency and DCS adoption.
Independent and private adoption
Private adoptions occur without the involvement of an adoption agency. Prospective adoptive parents come to an agreement with the birth parents about the adoption, as well as fulfill other legal requirements. Tennessee has a mandatory waiting period of three days after the baby is born before the court can legally accept the surrender of the child to the adoptive parents.
Some Tennessee families choose to adopt a child from another country to make their families complete. The adoption may be finalized in the child’s country of origin or in the United States. International adoption comes with its own rules and regulations, and is guided by the Hague Convention.
The East Tennessee adoption attorneys at Shepherd & Long provide informed guidance on all aspects of adopting a child – from the initial paperwork to your happy day in court when your family becomes complete.
Who can adopt a child in Tennessee?
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about who can adopt a child, so you may be surprised to know that you do not need to be part of a happily married couple with a big home and a huge income. You can be a single person, you can live in a home that you rent, and you may or may not have a full-time job. What the State of Tennessee really wants to know is that you are stable (emotionally, physically and financially), that you are willing to make a commitment to love and care for your child, that you have a safe, loving home, and that you are fully capable of supporting yourself and your prospective adoptive child on your own. If you successfully complete the training, pass a home study, and meet all the other requirements, then you may be eligible to adopt a child.
Understanding Tennessee’s laws about same-sex couples and adoption
Tennessee is one of almost a dozen states that have passed a law saying adoption agencies cannot legally be compelled to serve same-sex couples. That can make it harder for LGBTQIA+ individuals and families to adopt a child, but it does not mean you cannot adopt. Being gay is not a disqualifier for adoption.
That’s where we come in. Shepherd & Long, P.C. is ready, able, and happy to help LGBTQIA+ families and individuals through the adoption process. We don’t discriminate at our firm based on religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Call us today for help; we’re always ready to help.
What are the requirements to adopt a child in Tennessee?
According to the domestic adoption organization American Adoption, Tennessee has several adoption requirements. Prospective parents must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the state for at least six consecutive months (with certain exceptions). Prospective parents should also expect a home study and other requirements, depending on what type of adoption they choose.
If you are adopting your foster child, you must be at least 21 and complete requirements for foster parenting. Find out more from the Department of Child Services, or call our Maryville adoption attorneys for a free consultation.
What is the Tennessee adoption process?
To help ensure adoption is the right choice for children and parents, the Tennessee DCS requires potential adoptive parents to complete a detailed process, including the following steps:
- A home study conducted by a licensed child placement agency
- Completion of a 30-hour education and self-assessment process
- Submission of a foster/adoption application for parenting to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
- Submission of a written home study that includes a family description, verification, medical and financial statements, and references
Completion of these steps does not guarantee your acceptance as an adoptive parent, but it’s definitely a good start. However, an incomplete application or failure to meet the full requirements when providing medical and financial information can stop the adoption process at any time. This is why we advise consulting with an experienced adoption attorney before you begin.
How much does it cost to adopt in Tennessee?
The costs to adopt a child can vary widely, depending on the type of adoption you pursue. Foster care adoption, domestic adoption, international adoption – they all require different expenses and requirements. Whatever you decide, these expenses could include:
- Adoption agency or professional fees
- Counseling services
- Legal services
- Medical costs of the birth mother and child
- Necessary travel expenses
- Rent and/or living expenses for birth mother for period before and after birth
Can a birth parent revoke consent for adoption?
In Tennessee, a birth parent can revoke their consent for adoption for up to 10 days after the child is born. They must appear in front of the judge who initially accepted the surrender, or that judge’s substitute. However, after that 10-day period, consent cannot be revoked for any reason – unless the court finds evidence consent was obtained by fraud or duress.
What are post-adoption contract agreements?
Post-adoption contract agreements (PACA) allow biological parents to keep in touch with their children, even after they have terminated their parental rights, and after their children have been formally adopted. These types of agreements are voluntary, and unless they were written into the terms of the adoption, biological parents had little recourse if the adoptive parents didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
That changed in 2019, when the governor signed the “First in Adoption Act” into law. Now, if the adoptive parents don’t live up to the agreement, the biological parent(s) can pursue legal actions against them.
There are two limits to the new law, however:
- Violating a PACA doesn’t invalidate the adoption.
- Adoptive parents can modify the PACA at any time, whereas the biological parents cannot.
Because PACAs are voluntary, you don’t have to enter into one unwillingly. If you do, however, you should know that they are enforceable. If you are accused of violating a PACA, we can help you with that, too.
How our Maryville adoption lawyers can help
Before you decide to adopt a child, you should understand the issues unique to adoption – the more prepared you are for the process, the fewer surprises along the way. During your initial consultation, our experienced family law attorneys help you prepare for some of the potential emotional issues you, your adopted child and other family members may experience. Advanced preparation helps ensure the seamless introduction of a new family member into your lives.
Having guided many parents through the adoption process, our dedicated attorneys have a clear understanding of the requirements and the complex legal issues involved in adoption. We make sure you know what to expect so you can prepare properly and help ensure the success of the adoption process.
Contact an experienced adoption lawyer in Maryville
Adopting a child requires a great deal of consideration, even before you submit your initial application. It simply makes sense to begin this exciting process by talking to an experienced adoption attorney at Shepherd & Long, P.C. today. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.