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7 Tennessee Adoption Laws You Need to Know

Understanding adoption law basics can make your family’s adoption experience run smoother.

Because when you are familiar with legal terms and adoption laws, you can better prepare for the adoption process in Tennessee.

The seven most important Tennessee adoption laws include:

  1. Adoption eligibility laws
  2. Adoption consent laws
  3. Adoption expense laws
  4. Adoption advertising laws
  5. Prospective birth father laws
  6. Tennessee international adoption laws
  7. Adoption from foster care in Tennessee laws

If you already have researched Tennessee’s adoption laws and regulations and are ready to start the adoption process, you can contact an adoption specialist today for free.

Tennessee Guidelines for Adoption

1. Adoption Eligibility Laws

Tennessee state adoption laws mandate that you must be:

  • At least 18 years old to adopt a baby
  • A Tennessee resident for at least six consecutive months

The Tennessee court may waive the Tennessee residency rule on two occasions:

  • An adoptive parent is stationed somewhere else (outside of Tennessee) with the military.
  • A relative of the adoptive child intends to adopt the baby. In this case, the relative only needs to be a Tennessee resident when they file the adoption petition.

Although most adoptions are private infant adoptions that are subject to Tennessee private adoption laws, any person, including an adult, can be adopted in Tennessee. But, children 14 years of age and older must consent to the adoption.

If you’re married, your spouse (if legally competent) must join the adoption petition unless they are the child’s biological parent.

In Tennessee, there are no laws about:

  • Marriage status: Parents can be married, single, or divorced
  • LGBTQ people or couples: LGBTQ parents can adopt on their own or jointly

2. Adoption Consent Laws

Some of the most important Tennessee adoption laws are consent laws. These laws protect the prospective birth parents and ensure that their consent to the adoption is legally obtained.

Although the prospective birth mother will have an adoption attorney who will guide her through the adoption process, you should also understand consent laws. If you have any questions about these laws, your adoption specialist will help.

Adoption consent laws in Tennessee include:

  • A legal waiting period: Birth parents must wait at least 72 hours after the baby’s birth to consent to the adoption. According to American Adoptions, a national adoption agency that supports birth parents and adoptive families, the court may waive the waiting period for “good cause.”
  • A judge witness’ the adoption: A judge or notary must witness birth parents’ consent to the adoption.
  • Consent revocation time limit: A birth parent may be able to revoke their adoption consent within 10 business days of execution. To do this, the birth parent must appear before the same judge who accepted the consent. They must execute consent revocation under oath. The baby may be returned to the birth parents unless someone files a petition that shows the child is at risk of being substantially harmed if they return to their birth parents.

3. Adoption Expense Laws

Every state in the United States has laws guiding what types of “payment of adoption expenses” by adoptive families are legal. Child adoption laws in Tennessee permit that prospective birth parent expenses can include:

  • Medical expenses: When related to the birth of the child, and for the child and prospective birth mother
  • Counseling fees: For adoptive parents and prospective birth parents for up to one year
  • Legal fees: Related to the adoption
  • Prospective birth mother expenses: Reasonable expenses can include housing, food, maternity clothing, children’s clothing, utilities, and transportation

An adoptive family may pay expenses up to 90 days before the baby’s birth or 45 days after the baby is in their adoptive family.

Adoptive parents must report all payments made to the birth mother to the court. This is to ensure the payments meet Tennessee adoption laws. If you are working with an adoption agency, your adoption specialist will help you handle payments and transfer funds to the prospective birth mother to ensure you’re conducting transactions legally.

4. Adoption Advertising Laws

Only certain people and organizations can advertise for adoption in Tennessee. Tennessee state adoption laws mandate that the following can advertise for adoption:

  • Prospective adoptive parents
  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • State-licensed child-placing agencies
  • Lawyers subject to Tennessee Supreme Court adoption advertising rules

5. Prospective Birth Father Laws

A prospective birth father’s rights and role in the adoption process vary. Your adoption specialist can help you navigate these complex Tennessee adoption laws and how they affect your adoption process.

These prospective birth father laws will have a different impact on your adoption depending on how the prospective birth father feels about the adoption:

  • When the prospective birth father supports the adoption, he could be involved in the adoption process.
  • When the prospective birth father is unsupportive of the adoption, he may take steps to establish and protect his parental rights. In this case, he will be notified of all adoption proceedings.

An adoption may still be able to proceed even if the birth father is unsupportive. This usually comes down to a case-by-case basis.

6. Tennessee International Adoption Laws

Although it’s not required for adoptive parents to re-adopt their child when they return to Tennessee after finalizing their international adoption overseas, it’s recommended. Adoptive parents will receive their child’s foreign birth report after the Tennessee court of “competent jurisdiction” receives all adoption paperwork. 

7. Adoption from Foster Care in Tennessee Laws

Foster parents can adopt their foster child only if the court concludes that a child’s birth parents cannot care for their child, and reunification is impossible. The court also will determine that there are no biological relatives who can care for and adopt the child.

There are legal foster care adoption subsidies available to adoptive parents in Tennessee, but certain conditions determine the extent of these subsidies.

Other Private Adoption Laws in Tennessee to Consider

Although this article describes the seven primary Tennessee adoption laws, you’ll discover other adoption laws during the adoption process. If you have any questions about these laws, reach out to your adoption specialist or adoption attorney. These adoption professionals are here to make the legal adoption process easier.

Disclaimer: Please note that this list is meant to provide helpful information, not legal advice. If you have specific questions about adoption laws, contact an adoption attorney.