A person may petition a Tennessee Court for adoption of a child if that person is over the age of 18 and has lived in the state of Tennessee for 6 consecutive months immediately before the filing of the petition. If the petitioner is married, then the petitioner’s spouse must join as a co-petitioner to the lawsuit. Every person who has a parental right to the proposed adopted child must be made a party to the lawsuit. Once the Court enters a final order or final decree in the case, the adoptive parent(s) will have a full and complete parent-child relationship.


Adoption has become a complex area of the law. It is important that an adoption be done correctly or unfortunate situations can arise that would adversely affect both the child and the adoptive parents. At McDonald,  Levy & Taylor, we pride ourselves on doing adoptions correctly. It is one of the most rewarding types of case to handle. If you need help with any facet of an adoption, we are here to help.




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Termination of Parental Rights

In order to adopt a child, there must have been a termination of the birth parents parental rights, or a determination by the adoption Court that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the parental rights.


A parent may surrender or voluntarily relinquish his/her child for adoption, and terminate his/her parental rights in this way. The surrender or voluntary relinquishment must be made before a judge more than 3 days after the birth of the child. A surrender or voluntary relinquishment is subject to revocation for 10 days. Parents who are minors may make a surrender. An unmarried father who is not named on the birth certificate may relinquish his parental rights by signing a waiver of interest.


There are specific grounds for termination of parental rights that are set out by Tennessee statute for all types of parental rights termination cases, not just adoption cases. The grounds for termination of legally established parental rights include:

  • Abandonment of the child
  • Removal of the child by the state for a period of 6 months for abuse or neglect when the conditions have not been remedied
  • Severe child abuse
  • Sentencing of the parent to more than 2 years imprisonment for conduct against the child or a sibling
  • Sentencing of the parent to 10 years for any criminal offense if the child is under 8 years old at the time of sentencing
  • Mental incompetence of the parent


Grounds for termination of parental rights, which rights have not been legally established, include:

  • Person has failed to pay a reasonable share of birth and prenatal expenses
  • Person has failed to make reasonable child support payments
  • Person has failed to show an ability and willingness to become a legal parent
  • Placing the child in the person’s custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the child
  • Person has failed to file a petition for paternity after 30 days of notice of his alleged paternity

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