On September 27, 1999 the Supreme
Court of Tennessee at Nashville issued an opinion in the case of
PROMISE DOE, ET AL., VS. DONALD SUNQUIST, ET. AL and upheld a new
adoption records law that was to take effect July 1, 1996. After
more than three years of litigation, the Supreme Court concluded
that the disclosure of adoption records created on or after March
16, 1951 does not impair the vested rights or violate the right to
privacy under the Tennessee constitution. This ruling by the Supreme
Court allows the Department of Children’s Services to begin
processing requests for services to persons eligible to have access
to their adoption records.
The department is able to act under
provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated §36-1-12 ( c ) to provide
access to adoption records, sealed adoption records, sealed records,
post adoption records, or records from any other information source
that were created on or after March 16, 1951.
Adoption records may be released
pursuant to court order as provided in Tennessee Code §36-1-138. If
any adoption was attempted or occurred before March 16, 1951, the
law affecting services available to eligible persons was effective
July 1, 1995.
Adoption records for eligible persons
are available to those surrendered for the purpose of adoption; for
adoptions which were filed and dismissed or not completed, and the
record was closed or sealed prior to March 16, 1951; and for any
records maintained at any time by the Tennessee Children’s Home
The adoption record includes sealed
adoption records, post-adoption records, court records, adoption
agency and Department of Health Vital records.
For more information, call the office
of Post Adoption Services at 615-532-5637.
Two vetoes included in the original legislation will remain:
- Contact veto: This allows a birth parent
or other related party to prevent contact after disclosure of
identifying information and acts much in the same way as a
- Disclosure veto: Birthmothers who
conceived as a result of rape or incest can effectively block
the release of any identifying information.