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Tennessee Adoption Laws

State laws govern the adoption process in the United States and can often vary, despite efforts to institute a common uniform code. State adoption laws regulate who's eligible to adopt a child, the age at which a child's consent is required, the protocol that must be followed, and other aspects of the adoption process. For example, many states, including Tennessee, require prospective parents to complete a home study program, which educates the adoptive family and allows the child's social worker to sign off on the adoption.

The following article provides a general overview of adoption laws in Tennessee.

Adopting a Child in Tennessee

Tennessee's adoption laws are fairly welcoming, as the requirements for adoptive parents are primarily focused on the adopted child's well-being. In Tennessee, prospective parents must be at least 18, residents of Tennessee for at least six months (if in the military), and have the ability to provide for the financial and emotional needs of the family. The state also allows people to adopt regardless of their marital status, meaning a person who's single may adopt a child.

At the earliest, legal adoption proceedings may not begin until four days after the birth of the child. However, mothers can get the process started sooner, which may include access to counseling and legal help. Unless there's some other court proceeding in effect, the birth mother remains the legal parent until the point of surrender. It's important to note that after surrendering her child, the birth mother has three days to revoke her decision.

Overview of Tennessee Adoption Laws

While statutes are a good source of information, they're usually written in legal jargon that can take time to understand. For this reason, it's also helpful to read an overview of the statutes. See the following chart to learn the basics of Tennessee's adoption laws and find links to relevant statutes.


Tennessee Code, Title 36, Chapter 1, Section 36-1-101, et seq. (Adoption)

Who May Be Adopted?

Any person, including an adult, may be adopted.

When is Child's Consent Needed?

Children 14 years and older must consent to the adoption.

Who May Adopt?

Any person who meets the following criteria may adopt a child in Tennessee:

  • Over 18 years old;
  • Tennessee resident for at least 6 consecutive months if in the military (residency requirement may be waived under certain circumstances, such as being a relative); and
  • Must be a resident at the time of filing the petition

Additionally, a spouse shall join in the petition (if competent) unless they are the natural parent of the child to be adopted. Natural parents must sign the petition, which acts as their consent to the adoption.

State Agency Responsible for Adoptions

Tennessee Department of Children's Services

Statute of Limitations to Challenge Adoption

The appeal must be filed within 30 days of finalizing the adoption

Related Statute(s)

Tennessee Code, Title 36, Chapter 2, Section 36-2-301, et seq. (Parentage)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Tennessee Adoption Laws: Related Resources

For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.

Learn More About Tennessee Adoption Laws: Talk to a Local Attorney

While adopting a child is a wonderful decision, it can also be a long and difficult journey. Luckily, you don't have to go at it alone. If you have questions about Tennessee adoption laws or would like help with the adoption process, it's best to speak with an experienced adoption attorney near you.

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