When two people have a child out of wedlock, the father does not automatically have rights to the child. This is true even if the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate. In Tennessee, a father can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born. This effectively gives him legal rights to the child.
If the parents get into a custody dispute after the child is born and the father did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, the father must take steps to establish his rights in conjunction with the custody dispute itself.
A father who did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity must file a Petition to Establish Parentage and Co-Parenting Time. Essentially, the Parentage Action asserts that the father is in fact the legal and biological father of the child. If the mother agrees to this, very little else needs to happen on that front. If the mother does not agree that the father is the biological father, a DNA test must be done and filed with the court. This obligates the father to support the child as a legal parent. After the parentage is established, the dispute centers around custody and co-parenting time.
The petition filed will set co-parenting time. This means you are asking the court to set a custody arrangement that maximizes time with each parent and is in the best interest of the child based on 15 custody considerations. At Held Law Firm, we work diligently with the client to collect documentation for each individual custody factor. This shows that maximizing time with our client is in the best interest of the client’s child.
If you need representation in a paternity case, give us a call.
Leah Smith is an attorney at Held Law Firm.