Adoption is generally a two-step process that involves the termination of parenting or guardian rights and the creation of rights for the adoptive parents. It is recommended persons looking to adopt or at risk of losing parental rights get help from an attorney familiar with adoption law. Misunderstanding the law or the failure to meet deadlines can have grave consequences.
Adoptions may take place voluntarily when the biological parents have consented to the adoption or they may occur without their cooperation. In the latter situation, there must be a court ruling that the constituional rights and best interests of the child require termination of parental rights. This often occurs after a child has been taken into state custody and there has been a finding of dependency and neglect. The evidence required to terminate parental rights must be clear and convincing, but Tennessee's adoption law stresses the interests of the child are superior to those of the parent. The law also emphasizes adoption cases are to be resolved quickly so that a child is not left in a state of legal limbo for an extended period.
The child in an adoption case will many times have unwed biological parents which can raise a host of of other issues. Oftentimes, the biological father will have to forcibly be made a party to the proceeding so that he has fair notice his parental rights may be terminated. Adoptions with unwed parents also might generate questions about whether paternity was ever correctly established. These are the types of issues an experienced adoption attorney should be looking for and prepared to address.