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A More Progressive Approach to Legal Representation

Adopting children after Obergefell vs. Hodges

Many same-sex couples pursue adoption as a way of growing their families, in addition to surrogacy or assisted reproduction. Before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States last June, same-sex couples often found themselves facing a long, complex adoption process. For many, this is still the case. The court's decision only applies to couples' ability to get married (or divorced). The issue of adoption is thus still largely governed by state law.

The good news is that same-sex families have successfully adopted children for many years already. In 2007, long before the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling, Tennessee's attorney general issued an opinion on the adoption of children by same-sex couples. It states that as long as the adoption serves the best interests of the child, Tennessee's adoption laws do not prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children. Similarly, Kentucky's family laws do not expressly prohibit adoption by same-sex couples.

If you're considering adoption to start your family, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Consider all of your options. If you're interested in third-party adoption, are you comfortable with open adoption, where birth parents remain involved in the child's life? Perhaps your partner has children from a previous relationship, in which case you'd want to pursue stepparent adoption. Children who are wards of the state or in foster care are also often awaiting adoption. Discuss these important issues as a couple so you're both on the same page when you actually begin your search.
  • Work with approved adoption agency. Not all adoption agencies are licensed to practice in every state. Sometimes, national agencies advertise their services on TV or the Internet but are not actually licensed by the state of Tennessee or Kentucky. Consider hiring a local adoption attorney who has worked with approved agencies for your state.
  • You must meet certain statutory requirements. In Kentucky, you must be at least 18 and have lived in the state for a year in order to adopt. If you are married, you must also petition for adoption jointly with your spouse. In Tennessee, you must be at least 21 and a resident of Tennessee to adopt a child, regardless of your marital status. Many agencies also look for financially stable couples who can demonstrate their ability to care for a child's emotional and physical needs.
  • Adoption is expensive. Adoption is a process where "fast and cheap" are not appropriate. Most of the costs go toward ensuring children are placed into loving homes where they will be given the chance to thrive. This means filling out and filing mountains of paperwork, conducting home studies, performing background checks and drawing up legal adoption papers. A diligent legal team can help you anticipate these costs so you can manage them effectively.

Adopting a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. With the appropriate research and support, you can realize your goals of growing your family through adoption.

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Mathis, Bates & Klinghard PLLC
412 Franklin Street
Clarksville, TN 37040

Phone: 931-444-3153
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