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TENNESSEE COMPILATION OF SELECTED LAWS ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, 2011 EDITION

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

Title 36 Domestic Relations

Chapter 1 Adoption

Part 1 General Provisions

36-1-138. Court orders for the release of information from adoption and sealed records.

(a) (1) Any necessary information in the files or the record of an adoption proceeding or in an adoption record, sealed adoption record, sealed record, post-adoption record or adoption assistance record may be disclosed pursuant to the requirements of subsection (c), to the party requiring it, upon a written, sworn motion before the court of original jurisdiction of the adoption proceeding, or, where the adoption proceeding is not yet filed, in the chancery or circuit court of the county where the record is located, or in the chancery or circuit court of any county that has a population of one hundred thousand (100,000) or greater, according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent census.

(2) Jurisdiction for motions filed pursuant to subdivision (c)(5) shall be in the chancery court for Davidson County.

(3) If the court that had original jurisdiction was a county court or is a court that no longer exists, the chancery court for the county in which such court was established shall have jurisdiction to hear the motion, in addition to the circuit or chancery courts in counties with a population of one hundred thousand (100,000) or more, as established by the 1990 federal census or any subsequent census.

(4) The department, licensed child-placing agency or licensed clinical social worker shall, upon request of the party seeking such information, disclose to the party the court in which such proceeding was filed and the docket number, if known to the department, or the licensed child-placing agency, or the licensed clinical social worker, or shall disclose the county in which the adoption record, sealed adoption record, or sealed record is located.

(b) The motion must be served upon the commissioners of children's services and health by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service upon the commissioners or a duly designated agent of either commissioner. The hearing shall not be held sooner than fifteen (15) days after the return receipt is dated or the date of personal service. Failure to obtain service on both commissioners, or any hearing held prior to the expiration of the fifteen-day service period, shall result in the order entered in the proceeding being void and of no effect whatsoever. Each commissioner shall be permitted to file a response and may appear through counsel to respond in writing or orally, and may appeal any resulting order.

(c) The record of the adoption proceeding, the adoption record, sealed adoption record, sealed record, post-adoption record or adoption assistance record may be opened, under whatever conditions the court shall determine necessary, if the court finds, for good cause shown, that the best interests of the adopted person or of the public require such disclosure, and that one (1) or more of the following requirements are met:

(1) The movant must show that information is needed for purposes of treating or preventing a physical, psychological or psychiatric condition affecting any person, which is clearly and specifically described by testimony or affidavit of a qualified treatment professional. For purposes of this section, “qualified treatment professional” means a person licensed by any state or federal authority or the duly authorized licensing body of any other government to provide treatment for physical, psychological or psychiatric conditions;

(2) The movant must show that the information is needed for purposes of establishing legal status or standing for inheritance or for property rights determinations or for the determination of legal relationships for third parties;

(3) The movant must show that the information is necessary for the movant to prosecute or defend a legal proceeding and that alternative information sources or other means of accomplishing this end are not available;

(4) The movant is any public agency that requires the disclosure of the information in such record for purposes directly related to its authorized duties and that such information cannot be obtained by any other method, or that further delay in obtaining information that may be contained in such record may result in harm to the adopted person, the adopted person's biological parent(s) or biological or legal relatives, or to the public;

(5) The movant is an individual who has sought disclosure under the provisions of §§ 36-1-127 - 36-1-131, 36-1-133, 36-1-134 and 36-1-135, and claims to have been improperly denied access to the information so requested by the departments of children's services or health pursuant to the provisions of those sections;

(6) The movant is an individual who alleges wrongful denial of access pursuant to § 36-1-127(e)(1)(B) or (C); or

(7) The movant is a lineal descendant of a deceased adopted person or a person for whom records are maintained as described in § 36-1-127(c)(1)(A) or is the lineal descendant of such a person who is disabled as defined for purposes of appointment of conservator under title 34. The effect of any order permitting the lineal descendant who is permitted to have access pursuant to this subdivision (c)(7) shall be to make the lineal descendant subject to the provisions of the contact veto process.

(d) In determining whether to order disclosure of information contained in the sealed adoption record, sealed record or the post-adoption record, the court shall conduct an in camera inspection of the records and shall permit disclosure of only such information as shall be necessary to fulfill the requirements of subsection (c).

(e) The departments of children's services or health may consent to the release of any sealed adoption records, sealed records or post-adoption records or records of birth under this section by an agreed order that is approved by the court if any of the conditions of subdivisions (c)(1) - (4) have been met or if the departments determine that they have been in error in refusing to release requested information pursuant to §§ 36-1-127 - 36-1-131, 36-1-133, 36-1-134 and 36-1-135.

(f) (1) The court may, upon notice to the department of children's services pursuant to subsection (b), order the department to attempt to establish contact with any person or entity for the purpose of obtaining any updated medical information necessary to assist in the treatment of the adopted person or the adopted person's biological or legal relatives or any person who has filed a motion under this section.

(2) If the department obtains the information sought under this subsection (f), it will report this fact to the court and shall send such information directly to the qualified treatment professional who is providing care and treatment for the person who sought the information, unless the court, for good cause entered in the record, shall order otherwise.

(g) (1) No contact by a party receiving information pursuant to this section who is eligible to request a search under this part for any other person who is or may be protected by a contact veto of any kind, or who is an adopted person or a person for whom records are maintained as described under § 36-1-127(c)(1)(A), shall be permitted unless the provisions of §§ 36-1-130 and §§ 36-1-131have been completed and contact is permissible pursuant to those sections.

(2) The department's response to the court shall inform the court if any person is subject to the protection of a contact veto or if any person is an adopted person or a person for whom records are maintained as described under § 36-1-127(c)(1)(A).

(h) The provisions of this section are supplemental to the previous provisions of this part permitting access to records by eligible persons without court orders and shall not be construed to be restrictive of those provisions.

Acts 1951, ch. 202, § 26 (Williams, § 9572.40); T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 36-132; Acts 1985, ch. 40, §§ 1-3; 1989, ch. 533, § 1; T.C.A., § 36-1-131; Acts 1995, ch. 532, § 1; 1996, ch. 1054, §§ 92-96, 99, 123, 124; 1996, ch. 1079, § 69.

Compiler's Notes. Former § 36-1-138, concerning adoption of adults, was transferred to § 36-1-103.

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