Although people have a strong association between marriage and parenthood, one does not need a formal relationship with the other parent of a child to make new life. In fact, sometimes people who don’t even have a romantic relationship at all end up parenting together.
Married fathers in Tennessee have a relatively easy time protecting their paternal rights. Hospital workers will typically put them on the birth certificate automatically after the child’s birth, and they can quickly negotiate for a temporary custody arrangement as soon as they begin living separately from their children or the other parent in the family.
However, some unmarried fathers first have to establish that they have a relationship with a child in order to make use of their parental rights. How does a man establish paternity in Tennessee?
He cooperates with the mother
The fastest and easiest way to establish paternity involves working with the mother of the child. When both parents readily acknowledge the father’s role in the family, they can fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. The document can quickly and easily add the father’s name to the birth certificate. Some parents are able to take this step at the hospital right after a child’s delivery, but fathers can theoretically ask the mother to acknowledge their paternity at any point while the child is still a minor.
He asks the courts for help
The Tennessee family courts have an interest in establishing a child’s parentage and will assist a father in proving and then maintaining his relationship with a minor child. If the mother does not acknowledge the father and will not fill out voluntary paperwork with him, he can request a paternity hearing by asserting that he has reason to believe he is the child’s biological father.
The courts can then request genetic testing to confirm or disprove the father’s claim of paternity. If the test affirms that he is very likely the child’s biological father, then he will be in a position to start actively using his parental rights, including the right to shared custody and a say in the child’s upbringing.
Seeking legal guidance to better understand what Tennessee requires from fathers who want shared custody can help men advocate for their role in the lives of their children.