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House Bill 1856 | Adoption Law

On July 1, 2018, the First in Adoption Act takes effect in Tennessee. The changes relate to the Tennessee Surrender Form and process, termination of parental rights, abandonment, and residency requirements for adoption.  The major changes are discussed below.

Changes Regarding the Surrender Form and Process:

The First in Adoption Act simplifies the surrender form. The surrender form is completed prior to the surrender of parental rights hearing in a private proceeding in front of a Judge. The form indicates their intention to surrender their parental rights to the adoptive parents or a licensed child-placing agency.

The legislation modified Tennessee’s lengthy surrender form, reducing it from 15 pages to 2 pages. The form is now part of the Tennessee adoption statute.

Changes Regarding “Abandonment”:

In the definition of abandonment, the court removed the term “willful” regarding a parent’s failure to visit or failure to support. Previously, the Petitioner was required to demonstrate that the failure to visit or support was willful.  The new legislation instead requires a parent to show that their actions were not willful as a defense.

Changes for the Putative Father:

The legislation expands the scope of the search in the putative father registry. The search will now include searches in the state where the child was born and where the mother was living or present at the time of conception.

The First in Adoption Act also limits the rights of an uninvolved, unwed father by changing the definition. The biological father must take some action to parent to the child before he can become a putative father.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights by a parent or guardian now includes severe abuse against any child, as opposed to only siblings, half-siblings, or any child temporarily or permanently residing in the home.

Residency Requirements

The First in Adoption Act removes the requirement that a person filing for adoption must have lived or maintained a residence in the state for six months immediately before filing a petition for adoption. So long as the person filing for adoption lives in the state at the time they file, the court has jurisdiction.

If a person filing for adoption or termination is on active duty in the military, they may file a petition for adoption in Tennessee without actual residency in the state if they lived in Tennessee for sixth months immediately before they entered the military, or if Tennessee is listed as their legal residence in the military.


The First in Adoption Act incorporates a lot of exciting changes for adoption law in Tennessee. The legislation will take effect on July 1, 2018.

Call the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC if you would like to discuss the changes in adoption legislation and how it will effect you in the adoption process. We look forward to your call! 615-543-8640