Adopting Your Stepchild

What You Need to Know About Adopting Your Stepchild in Tennessee

Are you interested in adopting your stepchild in Tennessee but don’t know where to begin?

Your spouse’s child already feels like your natural child. You share a bond and can’t imagine your life without them.

But you also know that you don’t have many rights when it comes to the child.

You may worry about visitation should something happen to your spouse. You could be concerned about how much input you get with making medical decisions.

Or maybe you just want to make sure your stepchild is taking care of after you pass away — that they inherit your estate.

No matter where you are in your adoption process, we know how important it is to have all the facts.

What is Stepparent adoption? 

A stepparent adoption typically happens when a person adopts the child of their current spouse. This is usually a simple process if the other parent offers consent and gives up their parental rights.

A good example of this is when a man marries a woman who has children from a previous relationship. Upon request, the biological father of those children could choose to terminate his parental rights and allow the new husband to adopt the children.

Once the adoption is finalized, the stepparent gains all the same rights and responsibilities as the biological parent. They become a full legal parent to the child. This means they are responsible for providing care and making medical decisions. And in the event of a divorce, the stepparent is entitled to custody and visitation rights.

Reasons to Consider Stepparent adoption.

There are many reasons to consider a stepparent adoption. Making the step parent’s role in a child’s life official has some financial and emotional benefits.

Here are just a few:

  • The child can inherit from the stepparent when they die or vice versa.
  • The stepparent can make decisions for the child’s wellbeing medically, socially, and financially.
  • The adoptive parent will now appear on the child’s birth certificate.
  • The child can take the step parent’s last name.

What are the procedures involved in a stepparent adoption in Tennessee? 

While the process for adopting a stepchild in Tennessee is relatively simple, it is important to understand the steps involved.

Are you married? 

Adopting a stepchild in Tennessee is much simpler when the parties are married. This doesn’t mean a stepparent cannot adopt unless they are married to the natural parent.

If the adopting parent is not married, the court might order a home study. Something that is usually waived when the parties are married and have been living together. Home studies are expensive. They also are time consuming and slow down the adoption process, but they exist to ensure a safe and happy home environment for the child or children.

Has the noncustodial parent consented?

Even if you’re married, another step must take place before the adoption process starts. The noncustodial parent needs to consent — provided they are still living.

Sometimes, the birth parent will voluntarily give up their parental rights. We see this, sometimes, with fathers who don’t want to pay child support anymore. And in many situations, the biological parent will terminate their rights because they genuinely believe it will be best for the child.

More often than not, the court will need to determine if there are grounds for an involuntary termination.

Grounds for terminating parental rights in Tennessee

Birth parents have rights to their children — and the constitution protects those rights. When terminating those rights, there must be grounds. And the adopting parent needs to provide proof that the grounds exist.

Adopting a stepchild in Tennessee will only happen if the court decides that the adoption is in the child’s best interest.

If you are unsure whether or not something is grounds for losing parental rights, read our list below. We’ve outlined a few common reasons.

  • Abandonment of the child
  • Failure to provide support to the child
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Sexual or physical abuse against the child
  • And in certain situations, incarceration

Should you hire an attorney for help with your stepparent adoption? 

It’s not required that you hire an attorney for your stepparent adoption in the state of Tennessee. It is, however, a good idea to work with an experienced family law attorney.

Throughout the adoption process, it is easy to make a mistake. And you’ll want to be extra cautious to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘T’s when the biological parent hasn’t relinquished their rights.

With so much at stake, it’s always best to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to guide you through the process and help you ensure the best situation for your stepchild and your family.

If you are preparing to adopt your stepchild, contact the office of Hunter Fowler today. Experienced family attorney Hunter Fowler works hard to make the adoption process effortless and secure for you and your family.