Is Adoption Right For Your Family?
When you are considering adoption, you deserve an attorney who can help you with the process and your unique situation. At McKinnish Law Group, we know the different needs of each type of adoption, and we can help you through the lengthy process of adding a new member to your family. Our lead attorney, Jennifer McKinnish, has over 15 years of experience assisting clients with family law matters.
Understanding Stepparent Adoptions
Many stepparents play a large role in the life of their stepchildren. At some point, the stepparent and their spouse decide that formal adoption is necessary to legalize the bond that already exists between the stepparent and child. Stepparent adoptions in Tennessee are considered relative adoptions under the adoption statutes. This classification as a “relative” permits the court to waive a home study and six-month waiting period.
When a stepparent decides to adopt the child of their spouse, the child is viewed by law as though born to the stepparent. In turn, should the stepparent and biological parent of the child divorce after a stepparent has formally adopted the child, they are entitled to the same child support and child custody considerations as the biological parent. As with all adoptions, the rights of the biological parent not involved in the child’s life must be terminated prior to formalizing the adoption, even if the biological parent whose rights are to be terminated is not listed on the birth certificate.
Adoptions By Grandparents And Other Relatives
More and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Often, grandparents will decide it is in their grandchildren’s best interests for the grandchildren to be formally adopted. The biological parents’ rights to the children must be terminated, or the biological parents must consent to the termination or adoption. As with stepparent adoptions, there is no formal waiting period or requirement for a formal home study.
Grandparents and stepparents are not the only relatives who may choose to adopt. T.C.A. 36-1-104(42) defines relatives as grandparents; any degree of great-grandparents, aunts or uncles; stepparent or cousins of the first degree; any siblings of the whole or half degree; or any spouse of the above-listed relative.
Are You Considering An International Adoption?
Many couples choose to utilize an agency to adopt overseas. Commonly, couples are required to obtain physical custody in the child’s home country, and the biological parents’ rights are terminated in the child’s custody of origin.
Once the child has been in the United States for six months, the child’s adoption can be formalized here. International adoptions finalized in Tennessee require a formal home study. If the child is adopted in their country of birth, some parents choose to readopt in the United States for record purposes.
Private adoptions are adoptions that take place without an agency other than the agency that conducts the home study. In private adoptions, the child must be in the physical custody of the prospective adoptive parents for at least six months before the adoption is formalized. The biological parents’ rights may be terminated sooner than the formalization of the adoption, leaving the prospective adoptive parents as guardians of the child to be adopted.
Termination often occurs in these types of cases by surrender and/or consent to termination. In private adoptions, it is imperative for prospective adoptive parents to obtain a thorough home study and to be led by a knowledgeable attorney. Failing to correctly handle an adoption can have long-term devastating effects for both children and prospective adoptive parents.
How Much Will An Adoption Cost?
There is no simple answer. Agreed relative adoptions where the biological parents consent are obviously much less expensive than, for example, an international adoption where travel and out-of-country agencies are involved. The cost of a home study can vary greatly from agency to agency and other variables, such as travel costs for your attorney, guardian ad litem fees, if applicable, and medical expenses for a birth mother without insurance impact the cost of adoption. Our firm does offer free initial consultations so that families may weigh their options and make informed decisions before committing to the process of adoption.
What Should You Look For In An Adoption Attorney?
Competency is the first and foremost quality you should seek in an adoption attorney. Jennifer McKinnish has been a family law attorney for over 15 years. Her practice is devoted to families, whether she is assisting families who are divorcing and working through how to parent as divorced parents or assisting prospective parents who want to adopt.
Adoption is a wonderful legal tool to unite children with loving and caring parents. However, the related laws are very complex, and you should be leery of attorneys who do not respect the adoption process.
Let Us Help Your Family
If you are ready to meet with a dedicated and compassionate legal team, contact us for your free initial consultation today. Call us at 865-229-9854 or email us here to schedule your consultation and take the first step toward your new family.