Adoption and Guardianship

Adoption and guardianship are two kinds of legal arrangements that allow for the care and custody of children, but there are major differences between the two. An adoption is a permanent placement of a child with a new family while guardianship may be limited in its tenure.

Adoption also terminates parental rights while guardianship will allow them to remain. Adoption will also end any child support obligations, while a parent may still be required to pay child support to a child with a guardian.

If you have questions about a potential adoption or guardianship in the greater Memphis area, make sure that you are working with an experienced family law lawyer. You can benefit from having legal counsel prepare all of your court filings.

Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law helps clients all over Tennessee with complex family law issues, including adoption and guardianship. He will sit down with you and discuss your family’s specific situation and will work to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Schedule a consultation calling our experienced team at (901) 562-3605 or by reaching out to us online.

Tennessee Adoption Laws

Tennessee allows any person to adopt a child regardless of marital status, but an adoptive parent must be 21 years of age, be a resident of Tennessee, and “be able to meet the financial and emotional needs of your own family.” The best interests of the child are the guiding factor in most state adoption laws in Tennessee

Tennessee Code § 36-1-101(a) establishes that the primary purpose of Part 1 of Chapter 1 of Title 36 in the Tennessee Code is to provide means and procedures for the adoption of children and adults that recognize to the greatest extent possible the rights and interests of persons affected by adoption, namely the adopted persons.

The rights of adopted children are specifically protected by the Constitution of the United States of America and the Tennessee State Constitution. The state seeks to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that:

  • Children are removed from the homes of parents or guardians only when that is the only alternative consistent with the best interest of the child
  • Children are placed only with people determined to be capable of providing proper care and a loving home
  • The child will be raised in a loving home capable of providing proper care
  • All persons who are affected by the adoption have their right protected and are entitled to notice of adoption proceedings
  • Adoption proceedings are held in an “expeditious manner” that allows the child to achieve permanency, consistent with their best interests, as soon as possible
  • The adopted child is protected in their adoptive relationship from interference by any individual who may have some legal claim after the child has become adjusted

Under Tennessee Code § 36-1-101(b), the secondary purpose of this part is to protect parents and guardians of children from decisions concerning the relinquishment of their rights to their children or wards that might be made as a result of undue influence or fraud. It has a secondary purpose to protect adoptive parents from assuming the care and responsibility for a child about whose background they are unaware and from the later disturbance of their parental relationship with their child by the or prior legal parents of the child who may have some legal claim due to the failure to protect their legal rights.

Another secondary purpose concerns providing adoption promotion and support services and activities designed to encourage early permanency and adoptions, when adoptions promote the best interests of children. Tennessee Code § 36-1-101(d) establishes that in all cases when the best interests of the child and those of the adults are in conflict, the conflict must always be resolved to favor the rights and the best interests of the child. The statute states the best interests of the child are recognized as “constitutionally protected and, to that end, this part shall be liberally construed.”

Tennessee Guardianship Laws

Guardianship in Tennessee actually takes two forms. Guardianship refers to the custody of minor children, but conservatorship is the term used to describe a situation in which a person becomes the legal guardian of an adult.

Guardians are often needed in cases in which both of a child’s parents have died. A guardian will be appointed to serve in their role only until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in Tennessee.

When a parent is creating a living will, it is always wise to identify preferred potential guardians. Courts may consider and invoke these requests.

A conservatorship is a legal relationship between one adult and another adult who needs assistance caring for themselves or making decisions. A court will have the final say in which matters a guardian will have decision-making responsibilities for, such as health care or living arrangements.

Tennessee guardianship laws are found in Chapter 2 of Title 34 of the Tennessee Code while conservatorship laws are found in Chapter 3 of Title 34 of the Tennessee Code. Conservatorships can be complicated to achieve when an adult has not engaged in an activity that the court deems to endanger themselves, and families may have to consider other possible options such as a durable power of attorney, health care directive, or special needs trust.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adoption and Guardianship

Can I foster a child I identified online before deciding to adopt them?

No. Tennessee will not move a child from their Foster Home until you are approved as their adoptive parent. The state has a goal to minimize the number of moves for children in state custody because of the possible trauma such moves can cause.

Can I adopt a child from another state?

In compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will conduct a foster or adoptive study for any Tennessee resident seeking the placement of a child in the custody or guardianship of the public child welfare agency of another state. Such residents are also responsible under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children to contract with a private Tennessee licensed child placing agency that secures an adoptive study and post-placement supervision (if necessary).

What is a guardian ad litem?

A guardian ad litem is court-appointed representatives to represent the interests of the minor during court proceedings involving the minor. A guardian ad litem is more common when a court determines that a minor cannot successfully represent themselves. While a guardian ad litem is usually a relative, it can also be an attorney.

Contact a Memphis Adoption and Guardianship Attorney Today

Do you need help with an adoption or guardianship issue in Memphis? You should contact Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law right away.

Our firm will not only help you now but also ensure that you are protected to avoid any future issues. When dealing with adoption and guardianship matters, you need honest support from an experienced family lawyer who you can trust. Call (901) 562-3605 or contact us online to discuss how we can assist you and your family.