In a practical sense, stepparents often largely fill the same role as legal or biological parents. They live with their stepchildren, provide them with regular guidance and likely contribute to their financial support. Sadly, being a stepparent doesn’t come with many legal rights.
If a stepparent’s spouse suddenly dies or if they get divorced, the stepparent may lose access to their stepchild. The only real way to guarantee the protection of a stepparent’s relationship with a stepchild is through a stepparent adoption.
Someone who has a strong connection with their stepchild might recognize how valuable a stepparent adoption could be for their family. However, it takes a lot of work and pre-approval to adopt a stepchild. Who has to agree to a stepparent adoption in Tennessee?
The other spouse
For stepparent adoption to be an option, the spouse of the stepparent must agree to the adoption. Sometimes, there might be a good reason to oppose the adoption, such as the child’s eligibility for certain benefits through the other parent. A stepparent hoping to adopt their stepchild usually needs to discuss the matter with their spouse and get their support before proceeding.
The other parent
A stepparent adoption is often only discussed when the other legal or biological parent of the child plays very little role in their life. If the other parent has already died, then no further actions are necessary. The same is true in situations where the state of Tennessee has terminated someone’s parental rights.
Otherwise, even a parent who does not currently have visitation or who doesn’t pay child support still has parental rights. The stepparent hoping to adopt would need to have the other parent of their stepchild sign paperwork terminating their parental rights before the adoption could move forward. Occasionally, it might be possible to involuntarily terminate their parental rights in court.
A child’s wishes are certainly not the primary governing factor in major family law matters. However, if the child is old enough and sufficiently mature, the courts can take their wishes into consideration. If the child strongly opposes the adoption, that might sway a judge’s final decision on the matter. So could a child’s enthusiastic happiness about a prospective stepparent adoption.
A family law judge
A stepparent adoption is not complete without the approval of a family law judge. The legal adoption process takes quite some time, and it is not complete until a judge reviews the circumstances and signs off on paperwork finalizing the adoption.
There are often numerous emotionally intense conversations that need to occur before a family can complete a stepparent adoption in Tennessee. Understanding who needs to play a role in the adoption process may benefit those hoping to legally protect their relationship with a stepchild.