Today, unmarried couples can start a family without worrying about what others might think. Most people no longer believe creating a typical nuclear family unit (two married parents and their kids) is the only option.
Unmarried unions can and do succeed, but as with marriage, there is always a chance it won’t work out. Unfortunately, unmarried fathers in Tennessee risk losing their parental rights if a break-up divides the family.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Under Tennessee law, the custody of babies born outside of marriage lies with the mother unless you have a child custody order. It means you could lose access to your kids and the right to have a say in decisions involving them.
Establish your paternity as soon as possible
Fathers can preserve their rights by establishing their paternity (fatherhood) in the eyes of the law. If both parents complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAoP) form witnessed by a notary public, that’s probably all that’s needed.
When mothers resist signing a VAoP, dads have other ways to establish paternity.
- Contact the child support office: If you open a case with the child support office, employees there will file the paperwork necessary to obtain a court order addressing paternity. It may or may not require DNA testing.
- Get a DNA test: If you want to obtain binding proof that you are the child’s father, consider requesting a DNA test. You can do this whether you have opened a child support case or not. Your co-parent can also request a DNA test.
With experienced legal guidance, you can find the best method for establishing your protection. When access to your kids is at stake, legal protection can be your best friend.