Tennessee law requires the termination of all legal and biological parent’s parental rights before an adoption can take place. Upon the entry of a Final Decree of Adoption, he adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child. The Final Decree of Adoption will also state that a new birth certificate will be prepared to list the adoptive father and mother’s names and to list any name changes for the child. Prior to the adoption being finalized, the adoptive parents must have the child in their physical custody for at least six months unless it is a relative adoption. In addition, a home study will be required prior to the adoption being finalized, except in the case of a relative adoption.
Tennessee Code Annotated 36-1-102(42) defines a relative as grandparents or any degree of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, or any degree of great aunts or great uncles, or step parent, cousins of the first degree or any sibling of the whole or half degree. One of the most common forms of a relative adoption is a step-parent adoption. The step-parent adoption requires that the parental rights of any other legal or biological parent must be terminated before the step-parent can adopt. In an uncontested relative or step-parent adoption, the legal or biological parent can sign a consent to the termination. If the legal or biological parent contests the termination of his or her parental rights, the adoptive parents must establish that there are grounds for the termination to take place. The grounds to terminate an individual’s parental rights include, but are not limited to, abandonment, willful failure to visit a child for more four months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and incarceration for a sentence of ten years or more with the child under the age of eight years old at the time of the sentence. After the grounds for termination are established, the court must still find that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.