Establishing paternity doesn’t always mean that you are the biological father of a child. Paternity, as a term, does mean fatherhood; but in the family law of Tennessee’s legal sense, establishing paternity is actually the act of determining a child’s “legal” father. Fathers, whether they are biological parents or not, have both rights and obligations to their children. While every child obviously has a biological father, not every child has a “legal” father that has established paternity and has obligations to them.
If the mother and father of a child are married to each other when a child is born, legal paternity is automatically established in Tennessee. The mother’s husband is considered the legal father, and his name will be denoted on the child’s birth certificate as the father. Issues can arise in some cases if the husband and legal father turns out not to be the biological father, but these cases are the exception, not the rule. In Tennessee, if the biological parents are not married to each other upon the birth of their child, paternity must be established. After this, the father’s name is put on the child’s birth certificate, and the father will then and only then have any rights to the child.
How to establish paternity in Tennessee
In the state of Tennessee, it is possible to establish paternity in one of two ways: voluntarily or involuntarily. Either of these scenarios can happen until the child is 21 years old. Normally, both the mother and father will agree that the father is, in fact, the biological father. This is when paternity is established voluntarily, and usually happens at the hospital just after the child is born. In Tennessee, both the father and mother will sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.” The form must be signed, notarized, and sent to the Office of Vital Records. If necessary, this form can also be found and signed later at the child support office, health department, or the Office of Vital Records. This filing establishes that the father on the birth certificate is the legal father of the child.
When paternity is disputed, the Tennessee courts get involved. This is what is called an involuntary establishment, and it is done through a court proceeding. The court will issue what is called an order of parentage. Your Franklin family lawyer will file a “Petition to Establish Parentage” at a county court where the mother, father, and/or child lives. This will get the process started, and usually involves a cheek swab DNA test for all three people involved: the child, the mother, and the potential father. Once the tests come back, the court will (or won’t, depending on the outcome) issue an order of parentage, making the biological father the legal father. The court will then typically issue orders of visitation, parenting plans, and child support.
The benefits of establishing paternity
There are many reasons a father would look to esablish paternity in Tennessee. Some of them include:
- The child can have a relationship with both parents and both sides of the family
- Knowing his or her biological makeup can make the child aware of family medical histories
- Children may have access to medical insurance and other benefits, such as life insurance, Social Security, benefits for veterans, and any inheritance
- Both parents can share the financial and logistic responsibilities of having a child
- Court ordered child support may be sought
- Fathers can gain legal rights to their children, such as visitation or custody rights
- Fathers can participate in their children’s lives, establishing a family bond benefitting both child and parent
The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates wants to be your dedicated family law firm. We can help you navigate the paternity seeking process and can help engineer positive outcomes for all involved. We are a reputable and experienced firm with years of representing fathers, mothers, and children in family law court. If you need a family law advocate with years of experience to represent you in your Franklin, Brentwood, or Columbia custody or child support case, call us today at 615-977-9370 or feel free to contact us online to schedule a consultation.