About Dawn

Attorney, Writer, Teacher, Mediator, Advocate

Dawn wears a lot of hats, but she is first and foremost passionate about healthy families for children. Nothing is closer to the bone than family. You must feel comfortable with the competence, values and ethics of your lawyer before you place the creation of your family in their hands. You may want to get to know Dawn a little. That’s fair.

Dawn Coppock – My Story

Dawn is the 2nd of 5 children born to educators in East Knoxville. Her mom worked for Knox County Public Schools and her dad was a business professor at Carson-Newman College. When Dawn was about 6, her family received temporary custody of her 4 year old cousin, Leah, because her aunt was mentally ill and addicted. That began litigation that spanned Dawn’s entire childhood. Finally, when Leah was almost 18, old enough to be adopted without her birth mother’s consent, her birth mother consented to Leah’s adoption.

Leah was Dawn’s beloved little sister long before she was adopted.  The years under legal threat to Leah’s security took a toll on everyone in this big, boisterous family. Dawn knows both that the heart does not distinguish between adopted and birth sisters, and that long-term litigation and threat to family security is not healthy for anyone. Both facts inform how Dawn practices law.

“Dawn provided us the wisdom of a trusted family friend, the knowledge of an expert in her field, and unparalleled compassion in some of the most trying moments of our lives. She is unflinchingly honest and a consummate professional. We hold her in the highest regard as an essential part of our family’s story.”

Former Client

Why Work With Dawn?

Becoming the Expert on Adoption Law

Dawn didn’t go to law school with the intent of practicing adoption law.  It took her a couple of years to even take her first adoption case. In hindsight, her family’s adoption experience likely began Dawn’s lifelong passion for the rights and needs of children and families in the legal system.

After graduating from law school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia, Dawn took a job at a firm in downtown Knoxville practicing “door law” (anything that walked through the door). When she took her first adoption case, she saw that most lawyers did not share her deep concern for the plight these particularly vulnerable clients. It took several more cases before Dawn considered an intentional focus on adoption law. Fortunately, at that time, East Tennessee needed an adoption attorney.

As Dawn’s technical expertise deepened and experience developed, so did her compassion for all parties in the triad. (Triad is adoption talk for birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted people). In her 20’s, Dawn was teaching seminars for other lawyers on how to competently practice adoption law. When she turned 30, she was invited to be a Fellow in the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA). By the early 1990s she limited her practice to adoption law and termination of parental rights and has since, consistently representing families at the trial and appellate level.

In 1996, she wrote the Tennessee law book on adoption, now called Coppock on Tennessee Adoption Law, which is currently in its 8th edition. In 2004, she was named an Angel in Adoption by the U. S. Congressional Coalition on Adoption. In 2015 Dawn founded Good Law, a legal seminar company to teach other lawyers how to competently practice adoption law too.

Access Dawn’s formal resume.

How You Stand to Benefit

While Dawn offers exceptional competence in adoption law, you need more than that. You need a lawyer who can turn book knowledge into a less stressful and more secure adoption for you. And, it is YOUR LIFE. It is your family, your risk, your money and you who loves or dreams of a child.  You need your questions answered, your choices explained and candid recommendations offered. You need a smart and experienced partner who will keep you informed, follow the law and legal ethics AND provide educated direction without making your choices for you.

The best adoption lawyers know that their job is not just to get you a final order of adoption, but to shepherd you toward your goals and around common pitfalls, legal and otherwise.

You deserve an adoption process that:

  • Makes you feel good about how you became a parent
  • Is respectful of the birth parents and others who care about the child
  • Is respectful of your values and ethics
  • Creates an adoption story that you are proud to tell your child
  • Is so legally solid that scary Hallmark movies don’t keep you up at night worrying about the disruption of your family.

Yes, sometimes adoption is a love fest from the start. But sometimes, particularly in contested cases, the conflict is baked in and the choices are few. We can’t control the past or other people, but we can always control how we conduct ourselves. You can frankly and confidently talk with Dawn about fears, vulnerabilities, costs and risks, and work out the approach most likely to protect your family and the child.

Even in tough cases, Dawn will empower you to proceed in a child-centered way that you can be proud of and that acknowledges the gravity of what is taking place. But, lest you get the impression that Dawn is just a teddy bear, social worker at heart, please know that Dawn is also an aggressive warrior for children and families, and a formidable adversary in litigation when that is what is called for. As Dawn’s professional life moves toward equipping the next generation of adoption lawyers, her litigation practice focuses on case assessment and set up, then transfer of time intense cases to other litigators, remaining on standby as a technical consultant.


Will Dawn take my Case?

Dawn represents families in most types of adoption and termination of parental rights cases. She also frequently consults with foster parents. Her time is increasingly dominated by writing, training, consulting, and meditating, so she can’t take every case with merit. But even when she can’t take on your whole case due to time constraints or geographic distance, she can often help you asses your situation and get started on the right path.

Dawn continues to take almost all uncontested east Tennessee adoptions, like agency and DCS cases and relative adoptions with consent or where the other party is unlikely to contest.  Even when she can’t take a case, a consultation permits Dawn to share her experience about whether it is the right time to file a case, and if so, exactly what and where to file, and to create a litigation plan. She even suggests possible lawyers to complete the case.

If a termination of parental rights case is already underway, Dawn can also consult with one party or mediate for all parties but of course, not both.

If you want to talk with Dawn about your case: please contact Angela Newsome, paralegal, for information on Dawn’s availability and to schedule an appointment.

Coppock on Tennessee Adoption Law

Authored the Book on Tennessee Adoption Law

In 1997, Dawn wrote the book on Tennessee Adoption law. She’s kept it up-to-date ever since. Coppock on Tennessee Adoption Law. is the go-to adoption law resource for judges and lawyers in Tennessee. The 8th edition was published in February 2024. You may want to read a copy to better understand your case or to decide if Dawn knows her stuff.

For a quick look, check your local library or law library.

Male couple learning their daughter math

Mediates with a Child-Centered Focus

Dawn is available as a Tennessee Rule 31 mediator when children’s lives and relationships hang in the balance. Her mediation goal is child-centered, collaborative solutions that safely maintain a child’s significant connections. Dawn uses her deep technical knowledge to offer solutions to conflicts that other family law mediators may not know of or think about.

Dawn has educated herself in the modern and very relevant science of trauma and bonding and attachment. As a mediator, Dawn can bring technical information, creativity and compassion for children and those that love them to your case.

A mediator can be engaged before or after a lawsuit has been filed. Dawn uses her mediation training to help resolve cases when she is your lawyer, but you can’t hire her as formal Rule 31 mediator after you have hired her as your lawyer. Neutrality is essential for a mediator. Work with Dawn as a Tennessee Rule 31 Mediator.

Male couple learning their daughter math

Advocates for Adoption and Child-Welfare

For over 30 years, Dawn has been an adoption and child-welfare advocate nationally and in Tennessee. She knows where the system is working and the places that it is not. She offers her frank assessment to policymakers (Public Outcry), and sometimes they listen. She has drafted and passed many child-welfare bills in the Tennessee Legislature, founded, encouraged and supported advocacy organizations, educated lawyers and judges on good practice, and pointed out places that we can do better for our children, openly and behind the scenes at every opportunity. To see what Dawn has been up to recently visit her Legislative Blog.


Rubber Ducks in a Law Office?

When Dawn finalizes an adoption, she gives the adopted child (or adult) a rubber duck. For virtual finalizations she mails them. It is a fun celebration of the new beginning!

Dawn Coppock, Adoption Attorney