It is becoming more and more common for unmarried people to have children. It was found by the Pew Research Center that the number of children born to unmarried parents rose from 5% to 41% in 50 years. Unmarried parents have the same rights to parenthood and child custody as parents who are married. The only difference is paternity has to be established before the parent can argue their rights in court. Paternity means fatherhood and establishing paternity means determining the child’s legal father, which includes the rights and obligations of the father to the child.

When a child is born and the parents are not married, sole custody automatically goes to the mother. Legally, the father is presumed to not be biologically related to the child and he has no right to see his child without a court order. While this is unfortunate, this also means the mother cannot put the father on child support at this time.

If the father desires visitation or custody rights of his child, he must establish paternity first. The easiest way to do this is to be present at the child’s birth and help fill out the birth certificate. If the father was not able to be on the child’s birth certificate, he can establish paternity by filling out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form or by DNA testing.

Traditionally, the unmarried mother had to file a petition with the court to establish paternity in Tennessee. Now, petitions to establish parentage can be filed by the mother, father, child, presumed father, or government.

Once paternity has been established, the father has all rights and responsibilities of a parent. While establishing paternity may go smoothly in some cases, it does not always happen that way. After paternity is established, you may have to spend more time in court for child custody disputes, child support disputes, or another reason involving your paternity. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney by your side during this time to help guide you through the legal processes.

Are you a father that wants to be present in your child’s life but you have no legal rights to them? We may be able to help! At Murfreesboro Family Law, we will help you navigate through Tennessee’s detailed child custody and visitation laws, so you can focus on being the best father you can for your child. We specialize in child custody, child support, divorce, adoption, and grandparents’ rights. For more information on our services, contact us at (615) 890-3656.