Did you know that in TN, you can be a biological father without having legal rights?
Tennessee actually distinguishes between a biological parent and a legal parent. This is a confusing concept for many people, but it's very important for parents to understand. When a child is born to an unmarried mother, the mother is both the biological and legal parent of the child. However, if the parents are unmarried, even if the father is clearly the biological father, he will not have any legal or custodial rights to the child until he is established as the legal father by a Court Order.
But what if you are on the birth certificate or signed a voluntary acknowledgement of patenriity? Many times parents will assume because the father is listed on the birth certificate or because he signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity that he is the legal father and has rights. This is not the case. When a father is on the birth certificate or signs a VOP, it creates a presumption of paternity, but the law requires that legal paternity be established by the Court of Law.
Thus, for a father to have parental rights in Tennessee, the father must either have been married to the mother at the time of the child's birth or the father must be established as the legal father by the Court.
How do you establish paternity and parental rights? You can establish paternity by agreement of both parents or by one party filing a Petition with the Court requesting that paternity be established. Either way, it requires a Court Order.
Many times, a mother might seek to establish paternity to obtain child support. Many times, a father might seek to establish paternity to obtain custody or have regular parenting time with the child.
What if you are married and you are not the biological father of your child? If you are married and you and your spouse have a child, the father is automatically presumed to be both the biological and legal father of the child. This is a rebuttable presumption, which means that paternity can be disestablished by obtaining DNA proof that the Husband is not the biological father. This also requires a Court Order.