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Many parents choose to build their family through adoption or surrogacy. Adoption is the legal process by which a new family relationship is established. New parent/child relationships are legally formed, and the child’s legal relationship to the birth family is terminated. Castles Family Law handles many different types of adoptions, including:

  • Infant/newborn
  • Step-child
  • Relative
  • Adult
  • Private
  • Special needs
  • Foster child
  • Single-parent
  • Grandparent
  • Termination of parental rights

Before a court will grant an adoption, there must be some sort of termination of the relationship with the birth/biological parents. This can occur through a voluntary surrender of parental rights or an involuntary termination of parental rights. Voluntary surrenders occur when birth parents consent to the adoption of their child. When there is no voluntary surrender, the potential adoptive parents can file a petition with the court, either with their petition for adoption or in a separate action, to have the biological parents’ rights involuntarily terminated. When this happens, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the biological parental rights should be terminated, which must be done before an adoption takes place.

Termination of parental rights can occur for several reasons:

  • The parent has abandoned the child
  • The parent has failed to comply with the statement of responsibilities in a permanency plan (set forth by the Department of Children’s Services)
  • The child was removed from the biological parent’s home by court order for at least 6 months, and the conditions that led to the child’s removal have not improved and are unlikely to improve
  • The parent committed severe child abuse
  • The parent was sentenced to more than 2 years in prison for conduct against the child or a sibling
  • The parent has been sentenced to 10 or more years and the child is younger than 8 years old
  • The parent has been convicted for causing the intentional wrongful death of the child’s other parent

Stepparent Adoption

When a stepparent wishes to adopt their stepchild, the biological parent married to the stepparent must consent to the adoption by joining in the adoption petition. The other biological parent’s rights must be terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily, as discussed above. The grounds for terminating a parent’s rights are defined by Tennessee statute, and it can sometimes be difficult to terminate, as Tennessee courts are very careful about ending a biological parent’s rights and responsibilities. However, courts will terminate a parent’s rights when it is in the best interest of the child.

Private Adoption

In a private adoption, children are placed with an adoptive family, typically by an adoption agency. It might take some time for a family to receive a child for placement, but adoption agencies typically have some certainty that the child is available for adoption once the child is placed with a potential family. With a private adoption, there is less chance that the child and biological parents will be reunited than there could be with a state placement (where children are placed with potential adoptive parents by the state of Tennessee, typically by the Department of Children’s Services). These adoptions typically cost a lot more money (than a state adoption or relative adoption), and some adoptive parents may even be financially responsible for the living and birth expenses of the biological mother.

State Adoption

Children who are held in state custody with the Department of Children’s Services can be placed with foster families or prospective adoptive homes for later adoption. Typically, a state adoption will be less costly than a private adoption, but it can be a long process because the state will attempt to reunite the child with their biological family before allowing the child to be adopted.

Single Parent Adoption

Tennessee does not require adoptive parents to be married. However, if you are married, Tennessee will require that both spouses join in the adoption petition.

Adult Adoption

This is an often overlooked area of adoption law. When most people think about adoption, it involves small children being adopted into a new family. However, it is possible to adopt an adult and have them legally recognized as your family. This process will require the consent of the adult being adopted, and it allows the adopted adult to become an heir of the adoptive parent’s estate.

How long will my adoption take?

An adoption could take several years or several weeks. The length of the adoption process may depend on whether it is necessary to terminate a biological parent’s parental rights, and whether that is done by consent or involuntarily.


In Tennessee, if you enter into a surrogacy contract prior to the birth of a child, you will not be required to terminate the parental rights of the surrogate/birth mother. Although this can make the process a bit easier, you must still file a petition to have the child’s birth certificate changed by the state to reflect the names of the adoptive parents.

In order to take the child home from the hospital, you should ask your attorney to draft a power of attorney and release of liability. These documents allow you to leave the hospital with the child and care for him or her until the child’s birth certificate can be corrected.

If you are looking to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other forms of alternative reproductive technologies to grow your family, contact our firm today to discuss what steps you need to take to protect your rights and make the process as smooth as possible.

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