Thursday, December 3, 2015

Step-parent Adoption 101

   Blended families are sometimes hard to navigate. The goal of the courts is to keep families in tact. However, that is not always possible or the best scenario. Some biological parents make the decision that it would be in the best interest of the child for him or her to be adopted by their step-parent. In Tennessee, children may be adopted by a step-parent in a couple of ways.
  A biological parent's legal rights regarding and claim to a minor child must be terminated before a child may be adopted. This may be done involuntarily by a court or the parent may consent to the termination. In the case of involuntary termination, the court will look at whether the parent has abandoned the child, whether the parent has provided for the child, and whether the parent has established a relationship with the child, among other factors. In the case of consent to termination, the biological parent simply has to be included in the petition for adoption as a co-petitioner, along with the other biological parent and the step-parent. After all petitioners sign the petition in front of a notary, the petition may be filed with the court and a court date may be set.
   It is important for all parties to understand the results of termination of parental rights. The parent whose rights are being terminated will not be responsible for future support of the child, but will be responsible for any child support arrears owed before the adoption is finalized by a judge. The parent will also have no claim in the future to any property, inheritance, or benefits of the child. Alternatively, the child will no longer be entitled to any claim to any property, inheritance, or benefits of the parent.
   Once the adoption is finalized, the step-parent will be responsible for the child until the age of 18. At the request of the parties and upon approval of court, the child's last name may be changed to the last name of the step-parent.
   Step-parent adoption is a fairly easy process. In Tennessee, the required home study, 6 month waiting period and adopting parent class may be waived by the courts. If you are considering a step-parent adoption, contact us for help. We would be happy to assist you in the process. (615) 890-2399