Many times clients come into our office and say that they, along with the biological parent, have raised their step child and now wish to formalize the relationship through adoption. This type of adoption is a way for people to legally know what they have emotionally felt for years: that the child is their own. Most of the time when a step parent adopts a child it is because the other biological parent has not chosen to take an active, caring role in the life of that child.
In Tennessee, step parent adoption follows the same legal and statutory process as any traditional adoption, with a few exceptions. In order for the step parent to adopt the minor child, the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated. In many cases, this termination is simply done by the written consent of the biological parent who welcomes the chance to end their child support obligation. If consent is not granted then, like with all adoptions, the parental rights must be terminated based upon proof of one of the grounds for termination contained in Tennessee statutes. Once the termination has occurred, the child is free to be adopted by the step parent.
Two major differences between a step parent adoption and other forms of adoption are the waiver of the statutory waiting period and home study. By law, all adoptions are subject to a 6 month waiting period from the time they are filed until they can be made final by the judge. A home study is also required of the party wishing to adopt. Since a step parent adoption is considered a relative adoption, judges can, and generally do, waive the waiting period and home study upon request of the party wishing to adopt. The reason for this waiver is because the child is assumed to have spent considerable time in the home of the step parent and to have developed a parent-child relationship with the step parent during that time.
Once the Court finalizes the step parent adoption, the legal parent-child relationship exists. At this point, like in traditional adoptions, birth certificates can be changed to reflect the relationship, the child’s last name may be changed, and all the legal rights and obligations between a parent and a child are created. Some of the happiest moments that an attorney is able to be a part of is when families celebrate the adoption of a child. If you and your spouse are considering pursuing a step parent adoption, contact the attorneys at Fidelis Law and allow us to help you navigate this precious moment in the life of your family.