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Tennessee

Adoption Laws

Notice: The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the advice of a licensed and qualified professional. While the content of this website is frequently updated, information changes rapidly and therefore, some information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies, omissions or typographical errors.

Consent to Adoption

Who Must Consent to an Adoption Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-110; 36-1-117

The following persons must be made parties to an adoption proceeding:

  • The parent, the legal parent, or the guardian
  • The putative biological father of the child

A parent who has not reached age 18 shall have the legal capacity to surrender a child or otherwise give parental consent to adoption or execute a waiver of interest and to release his or her rights to the child and shall be as fully bound thereby as if the parent had attained age 18.

The court shall have the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor parent of a child who may be surrendered or for whom a parental consent or waiver of interest is given if deemed necessary to advise and assist the minor parent with respect to surrender, parental consent, waiver, or termination of the minor parent’s parental rights.

Consent of Child Being Adopted Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-117

When the child who is the subject of the adoption is age 14 or older, the adoption court must receive the sworn, written consent of the child to the adoption. The court shall receive the consent and testimony from the child in chambers with only the child and a guardian ad litem if required and appointed by the court.

If the child is mentally disabled, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to give or withhold consent for the child.

When Parental Consent Is Not Needed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-117

The parent, legal parent, guardian, or putative biological father of the child shall not be made a party to the adoption proceeding if he or she:

  • Has surrendered parental or guardianship rights to the child
  • Has executed a parental consent that has been confirmed by the court
  • Has waived his or her rights or has had his or her rights terminated by the order of a court of competent jurisdiction

When Consent Can Be Executed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-111

No surrender or parental consent shall be valid that is made within 3 calendar days after the date of the child’s birth beginning on the day following the child’s birth. The court may, for good cause shown, waive this waiting period.

How Consent Must Be Executed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-111(b)

All surrenders must be made in chambers before a judge of the chancery, circuit, or juvenile court, and the court shall advise the person or persons surrendering the child of the right of revocation of the surrender and time for the revocation and the procedure for that revocation.

No surrender or parental consent shall be sufficient to make a child available for adoption when any other person, the department, a licensed child-placing agency, or other child-caring agency is exercising the right to physical custody of the child.

When the person executing the surrender resides in another State or territory of the United States, the surrender may be made in accordance with the laws of that State or territory or may be made before the judge of such State or territory, and such surrender shall be valid for use in adoptions in this State.

When the surrendering person resides or is temporarily in a foreign country, the surrender may be made before any officer of the U.S. armed forces or foreign service authorized to administer oaths.

When the person executing the surrender is incarcerated in a State or Federal penitentiary, the surrender may be executed before the warden of the penitentiary. The signature of the person executing the surrender and the warden must be acknowledged before a notary public.

In all other respects, the court or other persons authorized to accept surrenders must witness the actual act of surrender or must confirm the parental consent by verifying directly with the parent or guardian the parent’s or guardian’s understanding and willingness to terminate parental rights, by witnessing the parent’s or guardian’s signature on the surrender form, or by questioning the parent before the entry of an order of confirmation of the parental consent.

Revocation of Consent Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-112

A person who executed a surrender may revoke the surrender at any time within 10 calendar days of the date of the surrender. The surrender shall be revoked by appearing before the judge who accepted the surrender or the judge’s successor or substitute. The revocation of the surrender shall be executed under oath by the parent or guardian who executed the surrender of the child, and the judge or other person who accepted the surrender shall sign and date the revocation form.

No surrender may be revoked by the person surrendering the child or set aside by a court after the expiration of the 10-day period except as the surrender may be invalidated by court order entered pursuant to a timely filed complaint or as permitted by order of the court entered pursuant to § 36-1-118.

A parental consent may be revoked at any time prior to the entry of an order of confirmation of the parental consent by the court. The parent who executed the parental consent shall appear before the judge of the court in which the adoption petition is filed and shall execute a revocation of the parental consent.

After the revocation period has expired or after the court has entered an order confirming a parental consent, no surrender or waiver of interest or parental consent shall be set aside by a court except upon clear and convincing evidence of duress, fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or invalidity, and no surrender, waiver of interest, or parental consent may be set aside for any reason unless the action based on these grounds is initiated within 30 days of the execution of the surrender or within 30 days of the date of entry of the order of confirmation of parental consent.

Criminal Background Checks for Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents

Requirements for Foster Parents Ann. Code § 37-5-511

Each person applying to work with children in any capacity shall complete a criminal history disclosure form and shall agree to release all records relating to his or her criminal history to the department for the purpose of verifying the accuracy of criminal violation information contained on the disclosure form. Such persons also shall submit to a fingerprint-based criminal history records check to be conducted through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.

Conviction of an offense involving the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of a child, any offense involving violence against a child or any person, or an offense determined by the department to present a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of children shall disqualify the individual from employment that provides access to children.

Requirements for Adoptive Parents Ann. Code § 36-1-116; Code of Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

A home study is required of a prospective adoptive parent to determine his or her suitability to adopt a child.

In regulation:The adoptive home study shall include the caseworkers’ evaluation of the applicants’ suitability as adoptive parents and recommendations as to approval of the home.

Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Code § 36-1-113

Termination of parental rights must be based upon:

  • A finding by the court by clear and convincing evidence that the grounds for termination of parental or guardianship rights have been established.
  • The termination of the parent’s rights is in the best interests of the child.

Initiation of termination of parental rights may be based upon any of the following grounds:

  • Abandonment by the parent has occurred.
  • There has been substantial noncompliance by the parent with the permanency plan or a plan of care.
  • The child has been removed from the home of the parent for 6 months and:
    • The conditions that led to the child’s removal, that in all reasonable probability would cause the child to be subjected to further abuse or neglect, still persist.
    • There is little likelihood that these conditions will be remedied at an early date so that the child can be safely returned home in the near future.
    • The continuation of the parent-child relationship greatly diminishes the child’s chances of early integration into a safe, stable, and permanent home.
  • The parent has been found to have committed severe child abuse against the child who is the subject of the petition or against any sibling, half-sibling, or any other child residing temporarily or permanently in the home of the parent.
  • The parent has been sentenced to more than 2 years’ imprisonment for conduct against the child who is the subject of the petition, or for conduct against any sibling, half-sibling, or any other child residing temporarily or permanently in the home of the parent.
  • The parent has been incarcerated for 10 or more years, and the child is under age 8 at the time.
  • The parent has been convicted of the intentional and wrongful death of the child’s other parent or legal guardian.
  • The parent has been found to be mentally incompetent to provide for the further care and supervision of the child.
  • The parent has failed, without good cause or excuse, to pay a reasonable share of prenatal, natal, and postnatal expenses involving the birth of the child.
  • The parent has failed, without good cause or excuse, to support the child in accordance with the child support guidelines.
  • The parent has failed to seek reasonable visitation with the child, and if visitation has been granted, has failed to visit altogether, or has engaged in only token visitation.
  • The parent has failed to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the child.
  • Placing custody of the child in the parent’s legal and physical custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the physical or psychological welfare of the child.
  • A birth father has failed to file a petition to establish paternity of the child within 30 days after notice of alleged paternity by the child’s mother.
  • The parent has been found to have committed severe child sexual abuse.
  • The parent was convicted of rape from which the child was conceived.

The Department of Children’s Services shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child’s parents under the following circumstances:

  • The child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months.
  • A court of competent jurisdiction has determined a child to be an abandoned infant.
  • The parent has:
    • Committed murder or manslaughter of any sibling or half-sibling of the child
    • Aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such murder or a voluntary manslaughter
    • Committed a felony assault that has resulted in serious bodily injury or severe child abuse to the child or any sibling or half-sibling
  • A juvenile court has made a finding of severe child abuse.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Code § 36-1-113

At the option of the department, the department may determine that a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child’s parents shall not be filed if one of the following exists:

  • The child is being cared for by a relative.
  • The department has documented in the permanency plan a compelling reason for determining that filing such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • The department has not made reasonable efforts to provide to the family of the child, consistent with the time period in the department permanency plan, such services as the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to the child’s home.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption

Who Must Be Studied Citation: Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

The agency shall make a thorough study of the applicants before the home is approved.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-116

The study may be conducted by a licensed child-placing agency, a licensed clinical social worker, or the department if the parents are indigent under Federal poverty guidelines.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-115

Any person older than age 18 may petition to adopt a child. The petitioners must have physical custody or must demonstrate to the court that they have the right to receive custody of the child.

The petitioner have lived or maintained a regular residence in the State or on Federal territory within the State for 6 consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition. If the petitioner is in military service stationed outside the State but had lived or maintained a regular residence within the State for 6 consecutive months immediately prior to entering military service, the residency requirement shall not apply.

Elements of a Home Study Citation: Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

The adoptive home study shall be based on consideration of the following points:

  • Information obtained through interviews with all members of the family living in the home
  • At least one visit to the home
  • The applicants’ motivation to adopt a child
  • The applicants’ ability to provide for the child
  • Information obtained through contacts with references that shall include members of the extended family as well as individuals who are not related to the applicants
  • The character, values, and ethical standards of the applicants
  • The physical and mental health of the applicants
  • Health and fire safety conditions within the home

The agency shall ascertain that the applicants have reasonably good health and average life expectancy so that the security of having parents is unlikely to be cut short before the child matures. Except for the placement of special needs children, the agency shall require that the cause of childlessness be evaluated by a physician. This medical evaluation shall be included in the agency assessment of the motivation to adopt a child.

The adoptive home study shall include the caseworkers’ evaluation of the applicants’ suitability as adoptive parents and recommendations as to approval of the home. The home study shall also include a face sheet, study references, health examinations, and verification of marital status.

Grounds for Withholding Approval Citation: Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

When the adoptive home study is completed, the applicants shall be informed in writing as to the disposition of their application.

When Studies Must Be Completed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-116; Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

Prior to filing a petition for the adoption, the prospective adoptive parents may request a home study concerning the suitability of their home and themselves as adoptive parents. To be valid, the home study must have been completed or updated within 6 months prior to filing of the petition.

Upon filing the adoption petition, the prospective adoptive parents shall notify the court if they have requested a home study and, if a study has been completed, file a copy of the report based upon the home study with the court. If no prior or updated home study has been conducted, the court, within 5 days of the date the petition is filed, shall direct an agency or the department to submit a preliminary court report and any supplemental court reports as may be necessary, and a final court report concerning the circumstances of the child, the child’s antecedents, and the proposed adoptive home.

A preliminary court report shall be filed within 60 days. A final court report shall be submitted immediately prior to the finalization of the adoption.

In regulation:For a public agency adoption, the adoptive home study shall be completed before the placement of a child in the home.

Postplacement Study Requirements Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-116; Rules & Regs. R. 0250-4-9-.09

The court shall order a licensed child-placing agency, licensed clinical social worker, or the department if the parents are indigent under Federal poverty guidelines or if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents by the department, to provide supervision for the child who is in the home of prospective adoptive parents and to make any necessary reports that the court should have concerning the welfare of the child pending entry of the final order in the case.

In regulation: After placement, the caseworker shall visit in the home at least quarterly, until the adoption is finalized.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-115; 36-1-116

The requirement for State residency of 6 months’ duration shall not apply when the petitioner is seeking to adopt a child who is related as long as the petitioner is an actual resident of the State at the time the petition is filed.

The court may waive the requirement for a home study and postplacement supervision when the child is to be adopted by related persons.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements Citation: Ann. Code § 37-4-201

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

Foster to Adopt Placements Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-115

When a child is placed in a foster home and becomes available for adoption due to the termination or surrender of all parental or guardianship rights to the child, those foster parents shall be given first preference to adopt the child if the child has resided in the foster home for 12 or more consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of an adoption petition.

In becoming adoptive parents, the foster parents shall meet all requirements otherwise imposed on persons seeking to adopt children in the custody of the department and shall be subject to all other provisions of this part.

Infant Safe Haven Laws

Infant’s Age Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

An infant who is 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished.

Who May Relinquish the Infant Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

The infant may be relinquished by his or her mother.

Who May Receive the Infant Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Any facility shall receive possession of any newborn infant left on facility premises with any facility employee or member of the professional medical community if the infant:

  • Was born within the preceding 72 hours, as determined within a reasonable degree of medical certainty
  • Is left in an unharmed condition
  • Is voluntarily left by a person who purports to be the child’s mother and who does not express an intention of returning for the infant

The term ‘facility’ means any hospital, birthing center, community health clinic, outpatient walk-in clinic, fire department that is staffed 24 hours a day, law enforcement facility that is staffed 24 hours a day, or emergency medical services facility.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

The facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community at such facility shall inquire, whenever possible, about the medical history of the mother or newborn and, whenever possible, shall seek the identity of the mother, infant, or the father of the infant. The facility shall also inform the mother that she is not required to respond but that the information will facilitate the adoption of the child.

The facility may provide the parent with contact information regarding relevant social service agencies, shall provide the mother with the name, address, and phone number of the department contact person, and shall encourage the mother to involve the Department of Children’s Services in the relinquishment of the infant. If practicable, the facility shall also provide the mother with both orally delivered and written information concerning the requirements of this section, § 36-1-142 and § 36-2-318 [[[Putative Father Registry|putative father registry]]] relating to recovery of the child and abandonment of the child.

The facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community at the facility shall perform any act necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the child.

As soon as reasonably possible, and no later than 24 hours after receiving a newborn infant, the facility shall contact the Department of Children’s Services but shall not do so before the mother leaves the facility. Upon receipt of notification, the department shall immediately assume care, custody, and control of the infant.

Immunity for the Provider Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community shall be immune from any criminal or civil liability for damages as a result of any actions taken pursuant to the requirements of this section and § 36-1-142, and no lawsuit shall be predicated thereon. However, nothing in this section and § 36-1-142 shall be construed to abrogate any existing standard of care for medical treatment or to preclude a cause of action based upon violation of such existing standard of care for medical treatment.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Any information obtained concerning the identity of the mother, infant, or other parent shall be kept confidential and may only be disclosed to the Department of Children’s Services for use consistent with the purposes of this section, § 36-1-142, and § 36-2-318.

No criminal prosecution shall be based upon a mother’s act of voluntarily delivering her unharmed infant at a facility pursuant to this section if the mother acts in full compliance with this section.

Effect on Parental Rights Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-142

Failure of the mother to visit or seek contact with the infant for 30 days after the date of relinquishment and failure to seek contact with the infant through the department or to revoke the voluntary delivery within 30 days after notice was given, which shall cumulatively be no less than 90 days after the child was relinquished, shall be a basis for termination of parental rights.

A mother who voluntarily delivers an infant may revoke such voluntary delivery by applying to the court no later than 30 days after notice was given. After 30 days, no voluntary delivery shall be set aside except upon clear and convincing evidence of duress, fraud, or intentional misrepresentation.

Within 10 days of receipt of an infant, the department shall give notice once a week for 4 consecutive weeks in a newspaper where the voluntary delivery occurred. The notice shall include information to inform the putative father how to claim paternity and the mother how to revoke voluntary delivery. The notice shall specify that failure to seek contact with the infant through the department or to revoke the voluntary delivery within 30 days of the last publication of notice shall constitute abandonment of the infant and of the mother’s interest.

The notice shall specify that any father who fails to claim paternity by contacting the department or registering with the putative father registry within 30 days of the last publication shall be barred from thereafter bringing any action to establish paternity of the infant. It shall also specify that such failure shall constitute abandonment of any right to notice of, or to participate in, any judicial proceeding for the adoption of such infant, and that consent of such putative father shall not be required for adoption of the infant.

Regulation of Private Domestic Adoption Expenses

Birth Parent Expenses Allowed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-109(a)(1)(B)

Payment of the following expenses is permitted:

  • Reasonable charges or fees for hospital or medical services for the birth of the child
  • Medical care or other reasonable birth-related expenses for the mother or child
  • Reasonable counseling fees for the parent or adoptive parents of the child
  • Reasonable legal fees
  • Reasonable and actual expenses for housing, food, maternity clothing, child’s clothing, utilities, or transportation for a reasonable period of time

The expenses must be incurred directly in connection with the maternity, birth, and/or placement of the child for adoption, for legal services or legal proceedings directly related to the adoption of the child, or for counseling for a period of up to 1 year for the parent who surrenders the child or consents to the adoption of the child.

The payment may be only for expenses or costs actually incurred during the time periods specified above, but the actual payment or receipt of payment for expenses or costs may be made later.

Birth Parent Expenses Not Allowed Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-109(a)(1)(B)

Payment of living expenses is not permitted, without court approval, beyond a reasonable period not to exceed 90 days prior to the birth of the child or 45 days after the child’s birth or surrender for adoption.

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-108(a); 37-5-507

No person, corporation, agency, or other entity except the Department of Children’s Services, a licensed child-placing agency, or licensed clinical social worker shall engage in the placement of children for adoption. This section shall not be construed to prohibit any person from advising parents of a child or prospective adoptive parents of the availability of adoption or from acting as an agent or attorney for the parents of a child or prospective adoptive parents in making necessary arrangements for adoption as long as no remuneration, fees, contributions, or things of value are given to or received from any person or entity for such service other than usual and customary legal and medical fees in connection with the birth of the child or other pregnancy-related expenses, or for counseling for the parents and/or the child, and for the legal proceedings related to the adoption.

Private individuals, including midwives, physicians, nurses, hospital officials, lawyers, and the officials of any nonchartered or nonlicensed child-caring institution, child-placing agency, or maternity home are forbidden to engage in placing children for temporary care or for adoption.

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-109(a)(1)(A)

It is unlawful for any person to sell or surrender a child to another person for anything of value.

It is unlawful for any person, having the rights and duties of a parent or guardian with respect to the care and custody of a minor child, to assign or transfer such parental or guardianship rights for the purpose of, incidental to, or otherwise connected with, selling or offering to sell such rights and duties for money or anything of value.

Allowable Fees Charged by Department/Agency Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-108(d)(2), (d)(5)

The department shall maintain an informational database of fees charged by licensed agencies for home studies, placement services, counseling, and legal fees. The information is available to a prospective adoptive parent upon written request.

The department is specifically authorized to disclose to prospective adoptive parents or other interested persons any fees charged by any licensed child-placing agency, licensed clinical social worker, attorney, counseling service, or counselor for all legal and counseling services provided by that licensed child-placing agency, licensed clinical social worker, attorney, counseling service, or counselor.

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-116(b)(16)

The petition to adopt must state:

  • Whether the petitioners have paid, or promised to pay, any money, fees, contributions, or other remuneration or thing of value in connection with the birth, placement, or adoption of the child, and if so, to or from whom, the specific amount, and the specific purpose for which these were paid or promised
  • Whether any attorney’s fees, medical expenses, counseling fees, other expenses permitted under §§ 36-1-108 and 36-1-109, or any other fees, remuneration, or contribution, were paid or promised in connection with the child’s birth, placement, or adoption, and if so, to whom, the specific amount and the specific purpose for which they were paid or promised
  • The amount of fees paid to any licensed child-placing agency or licensed clinical social worker in connection with the placement of the child

The Rights of Unmarried Fathers

Legal Definition of Father Ann. Code §§ 36-2-302; 36-2-304(a)

As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

  • ‘Father’ means the biological father of a child born out of wedlock.
  • ‘Parent’ means the biological mother or biological father of a child, regardless of the marital status of the mother and father.

A man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child if:

  • The man and the child’s mother are married or have been married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated.
  • Before the child’s birth, the man and the mother have attempted to marry each other, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared illegal, void, and voidable.
  • After the child’s birth, the man and the mother have married or attempted to marry each other, although such marriage is or could be declared illegal, void, or voidable and:
    • The man has acknowledged his paternity of the child in a writing filed under the putative father registry.
    • The man has consented in writing to be named the child’s father on the birth certificate.
    • The man is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or by court order.
  • While the child is a minor, the man receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child.
  • Genetic tests have been administered, an exclusion has not occurred, and the test results show a statistical probability of parentage of 95 percent or greater.

Paternity Registry Ann. Code § 36-2-318

The Department of Children’s Services shall establish a putative father registry. The registrar of the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health shall notify the department’s registry of all orders of parentage or acknowledgments of parentage received by the registrar.

Any person listed on the registry shall be notified by the department of any proceedings for the adoption of any child or the termination of parental rights of any child of which the department’s adoption unit has actual notice of filing and for whom the registrant has made a claim of parentage, unless the person has previously executed an unrevoked surrender of the child or waiver of interest or has consented to the child’s adoption, or unless the person’s parental rights have been terminated by court action.

A person listed on the registry and entitled to notice of pending adoption or termination proceedings shall have 30 days from the receipt of such notice to file a complaint for parentage or to intervene in the adoption proceedings or termination of parental rights proceedings for the purpose of establishing a claim to parentage of the child or to present a defense to the termination or adoption case. The failure of such person to file a petition to intervene shall be sufficient cause for the court where the adoption proceedings or termination proceedings are pending to terminate the parental rights, if any, of such person.

Alternate Means to Establish Paternity Ann. Code § 36-2-305

The court may enter an order of parentage upon the agreement of the mother and father unless the court on its own motion orders genetic testing. In any such agreement, the mother and father must affirmatively acknowledge their parentage of the child. Any agreement under this part shall comply with the requirements of § 36-2-311.

Absent an agreement or an acknowledgment of parentage, a complaint to establish parentage may be filed. A complaint to establish parentage of a child may be filed by:

  • The child, if the child has reached the age of majority, or if the child is a minor, the child through a guardian or next friend
  • The child’s mother, or if the mother is a minor, the mother’s personal representative, parent, or guardian
  • A man claiming to be the child’s father, or if the man is a minor, the man’s parent, guardian, or personal representative
  • The Department of Human Services

Required Information Ann. Code § 36-2-318

The registry shall contain the names of the following persons:

  • Those persons, their addresses, if available, the name of the child, and the name of the biological mother of the child, if available, for whom the registrar of the Division of Vital Records has a record that an order of parentage has been entered
  • Those persons who have filed with the registry a certified copy of a court order from this State or any other State or territory of the United States or any other country that adjudicates such person to be a father of a child born out of wedlock
  • Those persons who have filed with the registry a copy of a sworn acknowledgment of parentage executed pursuant to the law of this State or any other State or territory or any other country
  • Those persons who have filed only a written notice of intent to claim paternity of a child with the putative father registry either prior to, or within 30 days after, the birth of such child

Those persons who have filed only a written notice of intent to claim parentage of a child shall include with such notice:

  • The person’s name, current address, and current telephone number, if any
  • The name of the child, if known, for whom such person claims parentage
  • The name of the child’s biological mother
  • The current legal or physical custodian and that person’s address and telephone number, if known
  • Any other information that may identify the child and the child’s whereabouts

Revocation of Claim to Paternity Ann. Code § 36-2-318

A person who has filed a notice of intent to claim parentage may revoke the notice at any time in writing to the registry, and upon receipt of such notification by the registry, the notice of intent to claim parentage shall be deemed a nullity as of the date it is filed.

Access to Information

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements

Use of Advertisement Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-108(a)(2)

Only a licensed child-placing agency, a licensed clinical social worker, prospective adoptive parents, or a lawyer who is subject to the Tennessee supreme court rules regarding lawyer advertising may advertise for the placement of children for adoption in this State.

In order to advertise for the placement of children for adoption in Tennessee, out-of-State licensed child-placing agencies, licensed clinical social workers, or lawyers must:

  • Be authorized to do business in this State under respective licensing laws
  • Maintain a physical office within this State or incur expenses involved in the transportation of a licensing consultant to the closest physical office of the agency, social worker, or lawyer

Any advertisement in this State for the placement of children for adoption in another State by an agency or individual not licensed or authorized to do such business in this State shall clearly state that the agency or individual is not licensed or authorized to do such business in this State.

Use of Intermediaries/Facilitators Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-108(a)(1)

No person, corporation, agency, or other entity, except the department or a licensed child-placing agency or licensed clinical social worker, shall engage in the placement of children for adoption.

This section shall not be construed to prohibit any person from advising parents of a child or prospective adoptive parents in making necessary arrangements for adoption as long as no remuneration, fees, contributions, or things of value are given or received from any person or entity for such service other than usual and customary legal and medical fees.

Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?

Who May Adopt Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-115; 36-1-107

Any person over age 18 who has been a resident for at least 6 consecutive months prior to the petition may adopt, with the following stipulations:

  • Spouses must petition jointly, unless one of the spouses is found incompetent.
  • Foster parents are given first preference on adopting their foster child.

The residency requirement is waived if:

  • The petitioner is in military service stationed outside Tennessee, but had lived, or maintained a regular place of residence, within the State for 6 consecutive months immediately prior to entering military service.
  • The petitioner is related to the child. The petitioner need only be a resident of the State at the time of filing the petition.

Who May Be Adopted Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-107

Any person may be adopted.

Who May Place a Child for Adoption Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-108

Only the following may place a child for adoption:

  • The child’s parent
  • The Department of Children’s Services
  • A licensed child-placing agency
  • A licensed clinical social worker

Post-Adoption Laws

Access to Adoption Records

Who May Access Information Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-127; 36-1-128; 36-1-133

Nonidentifying information may be released to:

  • The adopted person who is age 18 or older
  • The adoptive parents or guardian if the adopted person is under age 18
  • The birth parent or legal relatives
  • The lineal descendants of an adopted person
  • The legal representative of any of the above persons

Identifying information is accessible to the following persons:

  • An adopted person who is age 21 or older
  • A birth parent or birth sibling
  • The spouse, lineal ancestor, or lineal descendant of an adopted person
  • The legal representative of any person listed above

Access to Nonidentifying Information Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-133

Upon written request of a person listed above, the department shall release nonidentifying information about the adopted person and such person’s birth or legal relatives that may include:

  • The date and time of the child’s birth
  • The child’s weight and other physical characteristics at birth
  • The age of the adopted person’s birth relatives at the time of the child’s birth
  • The nationality, ethnic background, race, and religious preference of the birth or legal relatives
  • The educational level, general occupation, and any talents or hobbies of the birth or legal relatives
  • A general physical description of the birth or legal relatives, including height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, complexion, and other similar information
  • Whether the birth or legal parent had any other children, and if so, any available nonidentifying information about such children
  • Available health history of the adopted person and the person’s birth or legal relatives, including specifically, any psychological or psychiatric information that would be expected to have any substantial effect on the adopted person’s mental or physical health

The department shall provide the same information described above to prospective adoptive parents with respect to any child or children the prospective adoptive parents are seeking to adopt.

Mutual Access to Identifying Information Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-128; 36-1-129

The department shall maintain a contact veto registry for permitting registration of the willingness or unwillingness of the persons listed above for contact with persons eligible to have access to records. The registry shall contain the following information:

  • The name of each person who has filed a contact veto or who has given consent for contact
  • The address and telephone number of the person
  • The date and place of birth of the person, if known
  • Any persons whom the person who files a contact veto wishes to exclude from the application of the contact veto
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the person requesting contact
  • The method of contact, if any, to which the person consents, including contact through one or more third parties
  • Any other information that eligible parties wish to release to the other eligible parties

A person eligible to file a contact veto or give consent for contact may notify the department in writing that such person does or does not object to contact being made with such person by any person or group of persons who are eligible to establish contact.

As part of the surrender for adoption, a birth parent or guardian shall indicate whether or not he or she wishes to file a contact veto or give consent for further contact. By filing a contact veto, a person is entitled to notification of any inquiry requesting contact with the filing person.

Access to Original Birth Certificate Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-130

The original birth certificate is available to parties who have established their eligibility to have access to adoption records.

Where the Information Can Be Located

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Post Adoption Services

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Birth Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-121; 31-2-105

An adopted child shall not inherit real or personal property from his or her birth parents or their relatives when the relationship between them has been terminated by final order of adoption, nor shall the birth parents or their relatives inherit from the adopted child. However, if a parent of a child dies without the relationship of parent and child having been previously terminated, and any other person thereafter adopts the child, the child’s right of inheritance from or through the deceased birth parent or any relative thereof shall be unaffected by the adoption.

For purposes of intestate succession by, through, or from a person, an adopted person is the child of an adopting parent and not of the birth parents except that adoption of a child by the spouse of a birth parent has no effect on the relationship between the child and that birth parent.

Adoptive Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-121

The adopted child and the child’s descendants shall be capable of inheriting and otherwise receiving title to real and personal property from the adoptive parents and their descendants.

The adoptive parents and their family shall have a right of inheritance but only as to property of the adopted child acquired after the child’s adoption.

Adopted Persons Who Are Not Included in a Will

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

What may be included in postadoption contact agreements? Ann. Code § 36-1-121(f)

No conditions shall be placed on the adoption of the child by the adoptive parents. However, nothing under this part shall be construed to prohibit ‘open adoptions’ where the adoptive parents permit, in their sole discretion, the parent or guardian of the child who surrendered the child or whose rights to the child were otherwise terminated, or the siblings or other persons related to the adopted child, to visit or otherwise continue or maintain a relationship with the adopted child.

Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement? Ann. Code § 36-1-121(f)

The adoptive parents have the sole discretion to permit the parent or guardian of the child, or the siblings or other persons related to the adopted child, to visit or otherwise continue or maintain a relationship with the adopted child.

What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements? Ann. Code § 36-1-121(f)

The adoptive parents of a child shall not be required by any order of the adoption court to permit visitation by any other person, nor shall the order of the adoption court place any conditions on the adoption of the child by the adoptive parents. Any provision in an order of the court or in any written agreement or contract between the parent or guardian of the child and the adoptive parents requiring visitation or otherwise placing any conditions of the adoption shall be void and of no effect whatsoever; provided that nothing under this part shall be construed to prohibit ‘open adoptions’ where the adoptive parents permit, in their sole discretion, the parent or guardian of the child who surrendered the child or whose rights to the child were otherwise terminated, or the siblings or other persons related to the adopted child, to visit or otherwise continue or maintain a relationship with the adopted child.

Are agreements legally enforceable? Ann. Code § 36-1-121(f)

The permission or agreement to permit visitation or contact shall not, in any manner whatsoever, establish any enforceable rights in the parent or guardian, the siblings, or other related persons.

How may an agreement be terminated or modified?

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Laws Related to Intercountry Adoption

Effect and Recognition of a Foreign Adoption Decree

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Readoption After an Intercountry Adoption

Ann. Code § 36-1-106(c)

With respect to a child sought to be readopted under the laws of this State who has been previously adopted pursuant to the laws of a foreign country, the court may enter new orders of adoption as required by any requirements of the U.S. Government for children who were adopted in foreign countries.

If an adoption was conducted in accordance with the laws of the foreign jurisdiction, no further termination of parental rights of the child’s parents, home study, court report are required, and no time period for which an adoption petition must be on file before a final adoption order is entered shall be required. Further, no consultation of the putative father registry is required, and the affidavits otherwise required by § 36-1-120(b)(1)-(2) need not be filed, if the attorney, social worker, or child-placing agency that provided professional services in the foreign adoption, does not maintain an office in the United States.

When a Tennessee resident adopts a child in a foreign country in accordance with the laws of the foreign country, and such adoption is recognized as full and final by the U.S. Government, such resident may file, with a petition, a copy of the adoption decree that evidences finalization of the adoption in the foreign country, together with a certified translation of the decree if it is not in English, and proof of full and final adoption from the U.S. Government, with the clerk of court of any county in this State having jurisdiction over persons filing such documents.

The court shall assign a docket number and file and enter the required documents with an order recognizing such foreign adoption without the necessity of a hearing. Such order, along with the final decree, order, or certificate from the foreign country, shall have the same force and effect as if a final order of readoption were granted in accordance with the provisions of this part.

Application for a U.S. Birth Certificate

Ann. Code §§ 36-1-120(f); 68-3-310(5)

All final orders of adoption must be reported by the clerk to the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health by sending a certified copy of the order or certificate of adoption and by reporting the information required by the division for a new certificate of birth or a Report of Foreign Birth for the child. The court clerk shall supply the division the following information for the preparation of a Report of Foreign Birth if the child who has been adopted was born in a foreign country:

  • The full adoptive name of the child
  • The adopted child’s date of birth and sex
  • The city, province, and country of the adopted child’s birth
  • The full name of the adoptive father
  • The full maiden name of the adoptive mother
  • The legal residence of the adoptive parents

The State Registrar shall prepare a report of foreign birth for a child not born in any State, territory, or possession of the United States whose adoptive parents are residents of Tennessee when the required adoption papers have been received from a court of competent jurisdiction in Tennessee.

Source

Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. [1]

References

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