Tennessee law allows adult adoption. This often occurs in a situation such as “My aunt and uncle raised me and I want to legally recognize them as my legal parents.” or something similar. The main issues to understand regarding an adult adoption are:
  • If two people are adopting an adult, they must be married to one another. A married person cannot adopt without their spouses consent.

  • The only way to retain one birth parent’s parental rights in an adult adoption is for a step-parent adoption to occur. Otherwise, both birth parents’ parental rights are terminated.

  • The birth parents do NOT have to consent to the adoption but they must be given notice of the action, unless they are deceased. The law states, “When petitioner seeks to adopt a person who is eighteen years of age or older, only the sworn, written consent of the person sought to be adopted shall be required and no order of reference or any home studies need be issued." Tennessee Code Annotated §36-1-117(j)(1). Also, if the adult adoptee was previously adjudicated incompetent, "the written consent of the adult person's guardian or conservator of the person shall be required." Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-117(j)(2)(a).

  • When adopting an adult over 21, that person needs to be specifically named in wills or estate planning documents of the adoptive parents. The word “child” or “heirs” or the like, will not cover that adopted person if they were 21 or older at the time of the adoption.

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