The Rights of Unmarried Fathers
Do you know your rights if you are unmarried at the time of your child’s birth?
As a father in Tennessee, you may think that you have certain rights based merely on the fact that you know that you are a child’s father. However, if you are unmarried to your child’s mother at the time of birth and you do not both agree to a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity so that you are listed on the child’s birth certificate as father, then you are not legally the child’s father. Establishing paternity is incredibly important. Further, even if you are on the child’s birth certificate as father, you may be surprised how few legal rights you have related to your child until you get a court order establishing what your rights are. Here is some more information about establishing paternity and the rights of unmarried fathers in our state. If you want a lawyer to help you with this situation, please feel free to reach out to me, Attorney Judy Oxford, at your convenience.
What are Your Rights When You are an Unmarried Father?
What your rights are depend on whether or not you have established paternity, or legal fatherhood, over your child, and whether you have a court order establishing legal rights to:
- custody of your child;
- visitation with your child;
- legal decision-making power related to your child;
- child support payments (if you are the custodial parent); and
The unmarried mother of a child has sole custody unless there is a court order otherwise. So, establishing paternity and getting your legal rights set out in a court order is very important. If you believe that you are a child’s rightful, biological father, then you have the right to embark on this process of establishing paternity.
How to Establish Paternity in Tennessee
If you are not married to your child’s mother at the time of your child’s birth, then there are two other ways of establishing paternity:
- Sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You and your child’s mother can agree to a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity if you are both in agreement that you are the child’s biological father. This is a simple process that can be done at the time of the child’s birth or at a later date in order to add the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate. However, there are a few restrictions, such as, the child must be younger than 19 years old and the mother must not have been married within 300 days before the child was born. You can contact your local health department about this process. However, being listed on the child’s birth certificate by itself gives you very few legal rights related to your child.
- Get a court order. This is the only way to firmly establish your paternal rights related to your child. To do this, you must file a petition with the court. It is best to have a lawyer representing you on this process. The court can resolve disagreements about who the father of the child is, if there is a disagreement, by ordering DNA testing. The court can establish parenting times for the father, and establish all the other legal rights and obligations you have as a father.
You Have the Right to Legal Counsel
Along the way, you also have the right to legal counsel. This is a very important right, as your best options and your rights may be overlooked if you fail to work with an experienced legal professional. An attorney can help you to establish paternity as well as navigate the legal work that comes after that, including negotiating a parenting plan with your child’s mother or bringing a child custody case to court.
Call Me Today for Your Consultation About Unmarried Fathers’ Rights
At Judy Oxford, Attorney at Law, I realize that you may have a lot of questions about your rights as a father. If you are looking to hire a lawyer, I am here to aid you along the way, give support, and aggressively advocate for you throughout the legal process. For your consultation, please call me today.