Stepparent adoptions are a beautiful expression of love and commitment. They are the most common form of adoption. They are often motivated by the desire to unify the family’s last name and for the parent/child relationship to be formally recognized. Many of the other legal securities of parentage can be contracted through legal instruments such as a will, Power of Attorney, and authorization for the release of information.
However, unless the rights of the biological parent that is uninvolved or undesirable are terminated, he or she will always maintain certain rights and responsibilities (which may or may not be exercised):
- The right to request custody and visitation;
- The responsibility to financially support the child;
- Certain educational rights extended to parents of children with disabilities; and
- The right to inherit from the child in the event of the child’s death.
Stepparents are considered relatives under the statutory definition as it pertains to an adoption proceeding. This allows Judges to waive many of the requirements in non-relative adoptions, such as the home study and six-month waiting period.
However, the Nashville Court requires a home study in stepparent adoptions. The fee for a home study is approximately $1,500.00 and usually takes a minimum of six weeks to complete. You will have to provide documents such as your marriage license to the home study agency, as well as submit to a background check, obtain a physician’s statement, and arrange a home visit.
If you are looking for a home study agency, the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC is always willing to provide referrals that will be a good fit for your family based on your location, budget, and values.
Sometimes the biological parent agrees to have his or her parental rights terminated because they believe it is in the child’s best interest. It also relieves them of any future obligation to pay child support. If they are the legal parent (see definition here: http://adoptmidtn.com/dont-forget-fathers/), they will typically sign a notarized document consenting to terminate their parental rights and join the Petition as a Co-Petitioner. If they are a putative father, they can sign a Waiver of Interest, a notarized document stating that they are neither admitting nor denying that they are the biological parent, and waiving any rights to the child.
If the termination of parental rights is contested, the Petitioners are facing a lengthy, expensive, and stressful ordeal. Parenting a child is a right protected by the Constitution. Therefore, Courts typically appoint an attorney to represent the Respondent if he or she cannot afford to hire one. The case will be set for a hearing, which often lasts several days or even weeks, and usually cannot be scheduled for months.
During the period prior to trial, there will usually be different forms of trial preparation and discovery, including interrogatories (answers to written questions that must be sworn to), depositions (out-of-court testimony that is transcribed by a court reporter). Sometimes expert witnesses testify about matters such as the child’s relationship with the parties, the impact of neglect or abuse the child has endured, and recommendations regarding how future contact with the Respondent would benefit or harm the child.
Once the Judge issues an Order, it is routine for the Respondent to appeal an unfavorable decision to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Families experience tremendous anxiety during this extensive period awaiting the Order from the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee handles stepparent adoptions at every stage of litigation. Contact us today for a free consult at 615-543-8640. We look forward to hearing from you and Making Love Official for your family!