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Stepparent Adoption Story | Adoption Law
Client Step parent adoption

The Adoption Law Center recently represented a wonderful family in a stepparent adoption. The stepfather wanted to adopt his 9-year-old stepson. The birth father originally consented to the adoption; but somewhere along the way he changed his mind and chose not to participate. Therefore, we had to terminate his parental rights. We were unable to serve the birth father with notice personally because we couldn’t find him. We filed a motion asking the court to let us serve the birth father by publishing notice in a newspaper for four consecutive weeks. The court granted our motion.

Filing a Motion

After four weeks and no answer from the birth father, we filed a motion for default judgment to terminate his parental rights (TPR). This means we are asking the court to terminate the birth father’s parental rights because he has not answered our petition and is not participating in the process. The hearing on this motion was my first encounter with Judge Collins in Wilson County, Tennessee.



Our clients met me in the hallway in front of the courtroom. The courtroom was packed and the screen above him was filled with zoom callers. We found a seat inside and waited. Judge Collins made his way through the docket. Our clients were worried the birth father was on zoom and would attempt to dispute the motion, causing the adoption to take even longer.



Judge Collins called our case. I stood up to address the court and had our clients remain seated. The motion for default included copies of the publication and a publisher’s affidavit to show that service on the birth father was perfected. Judge Collins had few questions,which I answered easily.

Answering Client Questions

As we were sitting there waiting our turn, our clients had several questions. What was happening in this case or that case? What are the other attorneys doing? What are the other people doing? Why is the judge doing this or that? Why is it was taking so long?

Judge Collins finally called us up for the motion for default and termination of parental rights against the father. I introduced myself and our clients to the court.



Our clients were sworn in and I started going through the motion and taking the testimony of each parent. Judge Collins stopped me. He wanted to go through each “best interest factor” himself with our clients. At the end, he signed my Order to grant a default judgment and terminated the parental rights of the birth father. Our clients were very happy.



Judge Collins requires a 30-day waiting period after the termination of parental rights order is entered. Our clients weren’t thrilled about the wait. There had already been delays because the father refused to consent to the adoption and we were forced to serve him by publication, which is a lengthy process. But we set the date to finalize the stepparent adoption and waited.

Finalizing the Step Parent Adoption

When the day came to finalize the adoption, we were at the same courthouse and in the same courtroom. This time, it was a ghost town. Judge Collins loves adoptions so much that he clears the docket for each adoption finalization hearing.



We headed inside the courtroom and waited. Our clients brought their parents, their 2-year-old son, and our 9-year-old adoptee. The 9 year old adoptee was so loved by both sides of the family and his little brother. The kids played while the adults talked. This gave me the opportunity to get to know this sweet family even better. Everyone was giddy with excitement.



Judge Collins came in and was so friendly and excited to finalize this adoption. The clerks brought in candy, balloons, and a stuffed animal for our adoptee. Our adoptee got to introduce his whole family to the court. He talked a lot about his little brother and how much he enjoys being a big brother. 


Judge Collins told our adoptee that he could sit anywhere he wanted while we formalized his adoption – including the Judge’s seat. Our adoptee decided to stand with his parents.

Joyous Final Decree of Adoption

Judge Collins gave me the go ahead. I started with stepdad’s testimony and ask him to state his full legal name, which he did. I asked if it was his intent to adopt our adoptee today, which he did. I looked up at stepdad and see his face is turning red and he is starting to tear up. I looked away because I knew if he cried, I would cry. I keep going through the testimony. I ask stepdad if he is committed to providing our adoptee with a loving, stable home, which he was. At this point, stepdad loses it and is fully crying. I looked at mom and she is crying too. Our adoptee is crying and hanging on stepdad under his arm. I keep going but now my voice is shaking and I’m trying my best to maintain my composure.



I manage to finish with stepdad’s testimony, barely keeping it together, and I start taking mom’s testimony. She’s already crying and as I tried to get through the first couple of questions I can see the grandparents are now tearing up too. I did my best to hold back my own tears but I couldn’t. I lost it. Tears start rolling, my glasses fogged up, and I am dying from embarrassment. The bailiff had to bring me tissues. I sped through mom’s testimony before things got worse.



Judge Collins signed our final decree of adoption and our family got to take their first pictures as a legal family on the bench with the judge.


If you are considering stepparent adoption, we are more than happy to discuss the process and answer your questions. You can reach us at 615-543-8640 or [email protected].