Rules for Establishing Legal Parental Rights for Unmarried Parents in Tennessee

Tennessee law has different means of establishing custody when the parents of a child are not married. If a child is born and the parents are unmarried, establishing custody isn’t as straightforward. As with most aspects and decisions in family court, the main consideration is what makes the most sense for the child and their best interest.

How do you establish paternity in Tennessee?

According to Tennessee law, if a couple is married and a child is born, the husband will be established as the child’s legal father. When a mother isn’t married and gives birth to a child, she receives full custody of the child until paternity is established. Parenting time, custody, and legal parental rights can be assigned once paternity is established. There is a misperception that signing the birth certificate establishes legal paternity, but according to Tennessee Code § 36-2-305, paternity can be established by an unmarried couple using a DNA test, an acknowledgment of paternity, or by court order.

The process of asserting paternal rights in Tennessee requires a legal process when parents are unmarried. Fathers seeking legal parental rights need to petition a Tennessee family court for custody. The first step would be trying to reach an agreement with your child’s mother. If you don’t have an agreement, then mediation can help you reach a parenting plan that works for everyone. If you aren’t capable of reaching an agreement with your child’s mother, then a judge will review the case and make a determination about what they feel would be the best custodial situation that will put your child in an environment to thrive.

What Does the Judge Consider During Custody Hearings?

If you and your child’s mother cannot agree on a parenting plan in mediation, a judge will be assigned to listen to the merits of your case and make a determination regarding custody. During the hearing, the judge will review your case and consider many factors, like:

  • The ability of the parent to provide necessities like food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and access to education
  • The parent who is currently the primary caregiver
  • The current relationship between each parent and the child
  • The household likely to provide the child with continuity and a stable homelife
  • Stability of each parent’s household
  • The physical and mental health of the parents
  • The child’s preference if they’re above the age of 12.
  • Any evidence of physical or emotional abuse in the household
  • The emotional history, behavior, or character of any other people who reside in the home or who have access to the child

Get Help Establishing Parental Rights in Tennessee

The attorneys at Patton and Pittman can help unmarried parents begin working on a parenting plan. If you need help creating a strategy for an upcoming custody hearing or you could benefit from legal advice from a Tennessee family law attorney, the lawyers at Patton and Pittman can help. Call our offices now at (931) 361-4477 to schedule a consultation.

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  • How Can a Grandparent Gain Custody of a Child? Read More

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