Divorce is a challenging and emotionally charged process, and when children are involved, the complexity increases exponentially. In Tennessee, like in many states, the legal landscape surrounding divorce considers various factors, including the well-being of the children.
But what about adopted children? How does divorce impact their lives, and what legal considerations come into play? This article will explore divorce in Tennessee and the specific implications for families with adopted children.
Understanding the Basics
Adopted children, in the eyes of the law, are no different from biological children when it comes to divorce proceedings. Tennessee family courts prioritize the child’s best interests, regardless of their adoption status. Just like you would if it was your biological child and you were divorcing, you and your spouse must establish a parenting plan to submit to the court.
In your parenting plan, you will have to determine who will be the Primary Residential Parent with whom the child will live most of the time and establish parenting time for the Alternative Residential parent. You will also need to decide which parent will be responsible for the decision-making for the child, which parent will pay for the child’s medical insurance, and how you will resolve disputes after the divorce.
Child Custody in Tennessee
Tennessee follows the standard of the “best interests of the child” when determining custody. That means the court considers various factors to decide which parent or guardian can provide the most suitable environment for the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs.
Adoption does not change this fundamental principle. The court examines factors such as the parents’ willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent, each parent’s mental and physical health, the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
In most cases, adopted children are treated the same as biological children, and the court will strive to maintain consistency and routine in the child’s life to minimize the impact of the divorce.
Legal Standing of Adoptive Parents
One crucial aspect to consider is the legal standing of adoptive parents in a divorce. If both parents adopted the child together, they typically share equal legal rights and responsibilities. This means that in the event of a divorce, the court will treat both adoptive parents equally, much like it would with biological parents.
However, complications may arise if only one parent legally adopted the child. In such cases, the non-adoptive parent may have to establish legal standing through the court to pursue custody or visitation rights. This process can be intricate and may involve proving a significant parental role in the child’s life.
Legal Rights to an Adopted Stepchild
If you’ve adopted your stepchild, you will be seen the same as their biological parent during the process. That means, even though you aren’t related by blood, you can assert your right to custody to remain part of the child’s life. Even if you didn’t adopt your stepchild, if you have a strong parent-child relationship, you can still petition the court for visitation.
Open Adoption Agreements
In some cases, adoptions in Tennessee involve open adoption agreements, allowing biological parents to maintain a degree of contact with the child post-adoption. During a divorce, the court will consider the terms of these agreements and may include provisions to ensure continued contact if it aligns with the child’s best interests. Additionally, if the adoptive parents divorce, the court may address how the open adoption agreement will be upheld, modified, or terminated based on the circumstances.
Child Support and Adoption
Child support is another critical aspect in divorce proceedings involving adopted children. The court will calculate child support based on the income of both parents and the child’s needs. Adopted children are entitled to the same financial support as biological children, and the court will use the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines to ensure that the custodial parent receives the necessary financial assistance to meet the child’s needs.
Divorcing Before the Adoption is Complete
The impact of your divorce during the adoption process depends on your circumstances. First, before a child can be adopted, their biological parents must have their parental rights terminated, which happens when they consent to the adoption. However, they may hesitate to do so once they find out about the impending divorce.
In contrast, if the state has already terminated the parent’s rights, they no longer have rights to the child. That means they can’t object to the adoption to proceed.
In the end, a judge decides to approve or deny all adoptions. This will be based on the child’s best interest. And while being married isn’t an adoption requirement in Tennessee adoptions, a judge may consider your impending divorce when deciding if the adoption is in the child’s best interest at this time.
The one important thing to remember is not to conceal your plans for divorce from the courts or the child’s biological parents. Intentionally misrepresenting your marital status could cause the birth parents to rescind their consent, and it could cause the court to invalidate the adoption in the future.
Turn to Attorney Hunter Fowler for Your Divorce and Child Custody Case
In Tennessee, the legal system recognizes the significance of providing a stable and nurturing environment for children, regardless of their adoption status. The court’s primary focus is on the child’s best interests, considering factors contributing to their well-being. While the legal process may be intricate, the goal is to ensure that adopted children receive the love, care, and support they need during and after the divorce of their adoptive parents.
Hunter Fowler is a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney who has provided legal services to many people in your situation. He is an expert at creating and modifying parenting plans and has negotiated dozens of successful parenting and child support plans. Hunter has experience handling the most delicate custody cases and can explain the laws surrounding child custody in Tennessee.
Contact us today for a consultation.