Dawn’s Blog

Tennessee Legislative Update (HB 0288/SB 0207)

Attorneys & Courts

Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACA) can be legally enforceable

Effective March 22, 2019


  • Post-adoption contact may not be mandated in the final order of adoption. T.C.A. §36-1-121(f)
  • Post adoption contact may be agreed upon by contract between birth parents, adoptive parents and the child (if 14 or older). T.C.A. §36-1-145(a)
  • Moral agreements for post-adoption contact, popular before enforceable contracts were permitted, may still be used provided that they clearly indicate that the PACA is a moral agreement only and not intended to be enforceable. 
  • All written and signed PACAs, executed after March 22, 2019, between birth parents and adoptive parents will be enforceable unless they expressly say that they are not intended to be enforceable. T.C.A. §36-1-145(a)
  • Breach of a post adoption contract cannot be a reason to set aside a final order of adoption or rescind a surrender or waiver. T.C.A. §36-1-145(i)
  • Adoptive parents or the child may petition a court to modify, terminate or enforce a post adoption contract.  T.C.A. §36-1-145(j)
  • A birth parent may only petition a court to enforce a post adoption contract.  T.C.A. §36-1-145(j)
  • Birth relatives, other than birth parents, may benefit from a contract for post-adoption contact, but they are not parties to the contract and may not take enforcement action.  T.C.A. §36-1-145(a) and (d)
  • Modification and enforcement take place under a 4-tiered structure. The first step is to write a letter to the other party describing the change or enforcement sought. If that does not resolve the issue, then the adoptive parents must secure an opinion as to the child’s best interest from a licensed psychological professional. If that does not prompt resolution, then the parties will attend mediation. Only upon two unsuccessful mediation sessions may court enforcement be sought.  
  • The burden of proof is on the party seeking enforcement or modification, and the standard of proof is preponderance of evidence. 
  • The primary test for determining whether modification or enforcement should be ordered is the best interest of the child. 
  • The cost of attempts at resolution up to litigation shall be borne by the adoptive parents. The cost of litigation may be taxed by the court to either party, based upon good faith and financial means. 

All relevant provisions will be found at T.C.A. §36-1-121 & §36-1-145. Refer to the legislation until Public Chapters and Tennessee Code revisions are available.  

Sample post adoption contact agreements and seminar information to follow.

Prepared by Attorney Dawn Coppock, Attorney At Law
P. O. Box 388 – Strawberry Plains, TN 37871
865.933.8173 – www.dawncoppock.com

About Dawn Coppock

Tennessee Adoption Attorney and Author

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 many places that it is not. When she provides her frank assessment to policy makers, 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.

Dawn Coppock, Adoption Attorney

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