Are You an Unmarried Father?
Unmarried fathers sometimes have to take legal action to protect their rights to visitation and child custody. In the State of Tennessee, if you are an unmarried father, a Kingston fathers’ rights attorney will fight for your rights and represent you in disputes involving your child.
Historically, unmarried fathers’ rights were often ignored by family courts, and as a result, unmarried fathers seldom fought for their rights. However, more unmarried fathers are now insisting on their rights, and the courts in a number of states have affirmed those rights.
Unmarried fathers in Tennessee frequently have to deal with the same legal issues that divorced fathers often have to face regarding child custody, child support, and visitation rights.
What are your legal rights if you are an unmarried father in Tennessee? When will you need the advice and services of a Kingston fathers’ rights lawyer? Keep reading this brief discussion of unmarried fathers and their rights in Tennessee, and you will find the answers you may need.
What is a Tennessee Court’s Top Priority?
Tennessee’s courts recognize and honor parental rights, including unmarried fathers’ rights, but in any legal matter that involves a child in Tennessee, that child’s best interests will be the court’s top priority. Tennessee judges always put the best interests of the child first.
An unmarried father’s rights usually coincide directly with the best interests of his child, because the courts hold that giving a child the chance to bond with both the mother and the father and to have relationships with both parents is, in the vast majority of cases, in the child’s best interests.
Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?
One of the issues that unmarried fathers and mothers face in Tennessee is paternity – that is, legal fatherhood. When a mother is married, paternity is not an issue, because the law in Tennessee presumes the husband is the father.
However, when a child’s parents are not married, the law in Tennessee automatically gives sole physical and legal custody of the child to the mother unless and until paternity is established.
If the mother is not married, the child does not have a “legal” father – and the biological father cannot be ordered to make child support payments – until paternity has been legally determined.
By establishing paternity, a child can know if he or she has inherited disorders or diseases. Establishing paternity also allows a child to qualify for a father’s Social Security benefits, veterans benefits, inheritance rights, life and health insurance, as well as child support.
What is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity?
Paternity may be established in several ways in the State of Tennessee. The parents may voluntarily complete, sign, and have notarized a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. Many unmarried parents in Tennessee do this at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
If the Acknowledgment is not signed at the hospital, or if parents have an older child and they need to establish that child’s legal paternity, they may go to the local Health Department, Child Support Office, or State Office of Vital Records to obtain and sign the document.
Unmarried parents in Tennessee may establish paternity with a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity only until a child is 19 years old, but it’s genuinely best to establish paternity as early as possible and preferably at the time the child is born.
What is an Order of Parentage?
If paternity is disputed, it may be established when someone – perhaps a mother seeking child support payments – petitions a court to issue an order of parentage. If you need to have paternity established, have a Kingston family law attorney prepare and file your petition with the court.
If either parent denies or is unsure about paternity, the court may require a DNA test. After the test determines the identity of the biological father, an order of parentage will be issued by the court declaring the biological father the legal father and placing his name on the birth certificate.
When a Tennessee court issues an order of parentage, it may also issue child custody, child support, and visitation orders as part of the same legal proceeding. If unmarried parents cannot agree on child custody, child support, and/or visitation, the court will make those decisions.
What Are a Father’s Responsibilities and Rights?
When paternity has been legally established in Tennessee, both parents then have equal child custody rights and equal legal responsibilities to provide financial support for their child.
“Legal” parents have full legal parental rights and responsibilities. For example, a legal father in Tennessee who never married his child’s mother and who does not reside with his child may be ordered by a court to make payments to the mother for child support.
Unmarried fathers sometimes must go to court to protect their custody and visitation rights. If you’re an unmarried father in Tennessee, a Kingston fathers’ rights attorney can fight on your behalf in a dispute regarding your custody or visitation rights or your child support payments.
What’s Important for Unmarried Parents to Remember?
Whether or not a child’s parents are married, the child’s best interests – as previously mentioned – will be the main concern of the court in a child custody or child support dispute, and a child’s interests always take priority over a parent’s rights in a Tennessee courtroom.
However, lawyers now represent more fathers who are not married than ever before, and as noted previously, the rights of an unmarried father usually coincide with the best interests of the child.
If you are an unmarried father – or mother – and you need to establish paternity, fight for your child’s custody, or receive child support payments, promptly contact a Kingston family law attorney who will protect your rights and advocate on your behalf.
How Can You Select the Right Attorney?
When Davis Legal Team represents you in a paternity case, a divorce, or a dispute with your child’s other parent, we handle any negotiations with the other side’s attorney, prepare all of the necessary legal paperwork, and fight aggressively and effectively on your behalf.
Award-winning Tennessee attorney Tyler Davis leads a skilled and experienced team of family law attorneys who will ensure that you are treated justly and fairly from the beginning through the conclusion of the legal process.
If you are an unmarried father in Tennessee and you need help with any legal matter that concerns your child, promptly call the offices of Davis Legal Team at 865-354-3333, and let us work for you.