A Step-by-Step Guide to the Stepparent Adoption Process

Raising a step-child can be one of the most joy-filled experiences of your life. While you may not be the biological parent to this child, you certainly have the love and affection of any parent. In many cases, stepparents want to make sure that the law reflects the reality of being the parent to that child. In addition to being a very emotional experience, stepparent adoptions can also provide other benefits such as streamlining certain estate planning efforts. In the state of Tennessee, the stepparent adoption process is fairly straightforward and easy to work through.

Requirements for Stepparent Adoption
The first thing you will need to do if you want to go through the stepparent adoption process is to see if you meet the requirements. In Tennessee the following things are mandatory:

  • Married to Biological Parent – You must be legally married to one of the biological parents.
  • Other Biological Parent’s Rights are Terminated – If the other biological parent is still living, they must have had their parental rights terminated. This can be done voluntarily, or through a court order.
  • Able to Provide Care – You must be able to provide the care that is necessary for the child.

Termination of Parental Rights
The biggest obstacle that most people run into when it comes to stepparent adoptions is making sure that the other biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated. If the other parent isn’t a part of the child’s life, they may be willing (or even eager) to give up parental rights because this will also end any child support obligations they have. If the other parent isn’t willing, but it is clear that they aren’t a part of the child’s life, the courts may be willing to step in and force the termination of parental rights.

Filing for Adoption
Once the above issues are taken care of, the rest of the adoption process is very similar to any other adoption. In some ways, stepparent adoption is even easier than other types. Once you file the necessary documents petitioning the courts for the adoption, they will likely begin the process right away. In Tennessee, all adoptions have a six-month waiting period before they can be approved, and a home inspection is also required. With stepparent adoptions, however, the judge may consider waiving these requirements since in most cases the child has already been living with the stepparent for quite some time.

Final Approval
Once the courts have reviewed the application, they can make the final approval of the adoption. When this is done, the courts will also issue a new birth certificate identifying the stepparent as the legal parent. This solidifies the legal rights and responsibilities of the stepparent from that day forward. If you would like to file for a stepparent adoption, we are here to help. Contact Piper McCracken, PLLC to set up an appointment to get this exciting process started!

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Piper McCracken, PLLC

Our firm began as a belief that things could be done better—in both the practice of law and in the working lives of lawyers. Founding partners, Heather Piper and Joanna McCracken, met while working as attorneys at a large, regional firm. They honed their skills as litigators on a broad range of cases from medical malpractice and product liability, to real estate and entertainment law. But it was their mutual desire to help people on a more personal level that inspired them to begin a family law practice.

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