Step-Parent Adoption in Tennessee

 In Domestic Law

There are many situations in which a parent may wish to adopt their spouse’s child. In Tennessee, there are some important factors to consider when making this decision, as well as some aspects of Tennessee law that can make adoption difficult.


The first point to consider regarding an attempt to adopt a step-child is whether or not you are married. While Tennessee law does not require that a potential adoptive parent be married to the biological parent, being married can make the outcome more favorable and also make the process smoother. When the parties are not married, certain parts of the process can become more difficult. A step-parent adoption of a married couple is classified as a “Relative Adoption”, and oftentimes, courts will waive the normal adoption requirement of a home study. Home studies can be expensive and can take a lot of time. Therefore if you are not married to the biological parent, it may be much more difficult to obtain the adoption.

The Non-Custodial Biological Parent

After taking marriage into consideration, and opting to move forward in a step-parent adoption, the parties must address the current situation regarding the non-custodial biological parent. There are only two reasons that the non-custodial biological parent would not have to consent to the step-parent adoption:

  1. The other parent is deceased or
  2.  The other parent has had their rights involuntarily terminated by the courts

If the other biological parent is available, you should consider simply asking for written consent for the step-parent to adopt. The other parent may find that option appealing because it would relieve that person of financial obligations to the child. If the other parent does give consent, the written statement from the other biological parent would be presented to the court along with the request for adoption. If, however, the opposing parent does not consent, there may still be a way, in limited circumstances, to get their legal rights involuntarily revoked, such as in situations of abuse or abandonment. Regardless of if you are actively asking the other parent’s permission, the parties seeking the adoption must notify the biological parent of the request. There are ways to do this, even if you are unsure where the other parent is, such as posting the notification in the newspaper. A lawyer can help you decide the best method of notifying the other individual, if you are unaware of where they live or work.

Within ten business days of the petition requesting adoption, there must also be a verified statement submitted, stating that the parties seeking the adoption have consulted with the Putative Father Registry. The parties have to consult with said registry about if there are any other claims of paternity of the child, and if the parental rights were terminated or would need to be terminated to proceed with adoption. A putative father registry is a registry of men that don’t have a legal relationship to a child, but claims a child is his. Essentially, the registry is meant for men who are not married, to be able to keep a list, legally, of any women with whom he may have fathered a child, in order to maintain his legal rights to fatherhood.

PATH Parenting Course

A third part of step-parent adoption in Tennessee is a parenting course called “PATH” (Parents As Tender Healers). This class is usually a 7 week long course, one night a week. Each class is about three hours long, and it is meant as a parenting class, to decide if adoption is right for you. During this class, you will also be fingerprinted and have your background checked.

Age of Child

One final consideration of step-parent adoption is age. Minors that are aged 14 and above are required to give their own written consent to being adopted by a step parent.

Step-parent adoption can be a very long and complicated process. Having a lawyer to guide the way is highly advisable, as it can become a very overwhelming process. If you are considering adopting your step-child, please contact us today. We’d be happy to review your case with you.