Home » Adoptions by State » How to Adopt in Tennessee » What are the Legal Adoption Requirements in Tennessee? [9 Questions & Answers]

What are the Legal Adoption Requirements in Tennessee? [9 Questions & Answers]

You have thought about adopting a child for a long while and decided that adoption is how you want to grow your family.

Before you get too far along in the process, it’s important to research the legal adoption requirements in Tennessee. Because once you see how simple it is to meet the two true legal adoption requirements in Tennessee, you can start the adoption process.

This brief list notes the common questions prospective adoptive parents have regarding common qualifications for adopting in Tennessee:

  1. What are the legal adoption requirements in Tennessee?
  2. What adoption requirements do adoption agencies require?
  3. Do you have to be married to adopt in Tennessee?
  4. Are there any regulations in Tennessee regarding LGBTQ couples?
  5. Can a felon adopt a child in Tennessee?
  6. What are the requirements to adopt from foster care in Tennessee?
  7. Are you mentally ready and physically able to adopt?
  8. Are you financially ready to adopt?
  9. Are you emotionally prepared to adopt?

Although there are only two legal Tennessee adoption requirements that adoptive parents must meet (an 18-year-old age requirement and a six-month Tennessee resident requirement), we’ll address all these common questions next.

1. What are the Legal adoption requirements in Tennessee?

Age Requirement

The minimum age to adopt a child in Tennessee is 18. Tennessee does not have an “upper age limit” to adopt (meaning older residents can adopt a child).

But, most adoption agencies have “age preferences” for adoptive parents. Exceptions to these agency-specific preferences are made on a case-by-case basis.

Resident Requirement

Adoptive parents must be a resident of Tennessee for at least six consecutive months. Exceptions may be made for certain cases (relative adoptions or Tennessee residents stationed with the military outside the state).

Although these are the only legal requirements concerning who can adopt in Tennessee, individual adoption agencies sometimes have different adoption requirements.

Other Common Questions about Qualifications for Adopting in Tennessee

Although Tennessee only requires that adoptive parents meet an age and residential requirement, you may have specific questions about adoption and your family. The following section will touch on a few common questions Tennessee couples have regarding adoption requirements. 

2. What are the Adoption Requirements for Adoption Agencies?

Adoptive parents will have to take part in a home study. Home studies include:

  • A home visit (at least one)
  • Reference letters (used to help determine what type of adoptive family you have)
  • Health examinations
  • Verification of your marital status
  • Interview with everyone who lives in your house
  • And more

Along with the homes study, each agency has its own internal adoption requirements in Tennessee. Your adoption agency and adoption specialist will detail the specific requirements your family must meet.

3. Do You Have to be Married to Adopt in Tennessee?

Adoptive parents can be married, single, or divorced according to Tennessee law. If you are married, you and your spouse must adopt jointly. The only way a spouse in a marriage can adopt independently is if the other spouse is found incompetent by the court.

If you’re considering a stepparent adoption, the spouse who is the biological or legal parent of the child will have to sign the adoption petition as a co-petitioner.

You should check if the adoption agency you are working with has a marriage requirement that differs from the state’s legal requirements.

4. Are There Any Regulations in Tennessee Regarding LGBTQ Couples?

There are no state laws that prohibit LGBTQ couples from adopting in Tennessee. However, private agencies and other organizations can deny service to LGBTQ couples based on religious beliefs. Make sure to confirm any professional you are considering for adoption has a long track record of support LGBTQ families.

5. Can a Felon Adopt a Child in Tennessee?

It’s important to note that a prior felony conviction will not immediately disqualify you from adopting a child in Tennessee.

As noted previously, the adoption home study will help determine if you pass your criminal background checks and how to interpret your prior felony conviction.

According to American Adoptions, a national adoption agency, your adoption specialist and home study worker will consider:

  • The nature of the felony
  • When the felony happened
  • Other factors concerning the felony

This information will help determine if you are eligible to adopt in Tennessee.

6. What are the Requirements to Adopt from Foster Care in Tennessee?

The requirements to adopt a foster child in Tennessee are slightly different. These requirements include:

  • Age requirement: You must be at least 21 years old to adopt in Tennessee
  • Residential requirement: You must be a resident of Tennessee
  • Training requirement: You must complete the Parents as Tender Hearts (PATH) training
  • Home study requirement: You have to complete a home study requirement
  • Financial requirement: You need to fulfill your family’s financial needs
  • Background check requirement: You need to pass a background check and get fingerprinted

Prospective foster parents can be single, married, or divorced. Prospective foster parents can have no other children or already be parents. You can rent or own your home. Prospective foster parents also can work full-time.

Consider the Personal “Qualifications” to Adopt a Child in Tennessee

Although there only are a few legal requirements to adopt in Tennessee, each parent should consider if they are personally ready to adopt.

7. Are You Mentally Ready and Physically Able to Adopt?

Although the home study will examine in-depth if you are mentally and physically able to adopt, it’s wise to think about these aspects before starting the process. Do you have the energy to care for a child? Are you ready to submit your health statements to your adoption specialist?  

8. Are you Financially Ready to Adopt?

Again, your home study will examine your financial means in-depth. While there are no true income requirements to adopt a child in Tennessee, you should consider if you’re able to finance the adoption process and raise a child. It’s never too early to make a family budget.

9. Are you Emotionally Prepared to Adopt?

Some adoptive parents have struggled with infertility. Infertility grief is very real, and you must allow yourself to feel these emotions. It’s OK to grieve the dream of being a biological parent. Just be sure you’re ready to embrace the dream of becoming an adoptive parent.

Although there are only two true adoption requirements in Tennessee (an 18 year minimum age requirement and a six-month resident requirement), adoptive parents should feel comfortable asking their Tennessee adoption specialist for advice and guidance. Adoption specialists are trained to help you work through the adoption process.

After you’ve concluded you’ve met the adoption requirements in Tennessee and met your agency’s qualifications, you’ll start the life-changing adoption process! If you’re ready to reach out to an adoption specialist today, you can get free information.