If you are an unmarried father separated from the mother of your children, it is likely that you will be concerned about whether you have the legal right to visit your children and have custody of them.

As an unmarried father, it can often feel as though the odds are stacked against you, and that the mother has an unfair child custody advantage. However, it is important to note that custody courts cannot make decisions based on a parent’s gender. Instead, they must create a ruling that works in the best interests of the child. Unfortunately, unmarried fathers may still face some hurdles if there are disputes surrounding paternity.

Why do unmarried fathers face more difficulties establishing paternity?

When a man is married to a woman and that woman gives birth, the husband is legally presumed to be the father, so there does not need to be a formal paternity declaration. When an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, she can choose to declare the father legally by putting him on the birth certificate. However, if she refuses to voluntarily declare the paternity of the child, the alleged father will need to take alternative action.

What can an unmarried father do to claim paternity?

If the mother is unwilling to cooperate, the father’s first step will often be filing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form in the state of Tennessee. If the mother decides to contest this acknowledgement, the father must attempt to prove paternity by conducting a paternity test. Paternity tests can be ordered by the court when necessary.

The importance of establishing paternity

Fathers play a significant and irreplaceable role in a child’s life; all child custody courts recognize this. Therefore, courts will do what they can to unite a father and a child when they believe that this is in the child’s best interests.

If you are struggling to gain custody of your child in Tennessee, it is important that you take action and stand up for your rights.