Many studies have shown that children do best in life when they have strong bonds with both of their parents. This knowledge has influenced legal policies across the United States for optimal child custody rulings. However, there is still a long way to go, and fathers feel frustrated because they are not automatically given the same rights as mothers in many situations.
In the state of Tennessee, all mothers automatically gain full custody of their child at birth if they are not married at the time of birth. Therefore, the father has no automatic custody if he is not married to the mother when the baby is born.
How can I gain custody as an unmarried father?
It is helpful if the mother of your child will voluntarily acknowledge the fact that you are the father of the child. If she refuses to do this, you may need a court order to request a DNA test.
Once paternity has been established, child custody will likely be awarded as long as the custody is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. Usually, this custody will be awarded in the form of visitation rights in the state of Tennessee.
Who can advocate for me as a father?
If you are struggling to gain custody as an unmarried father, there are many groups that may be able to help you. The American Coalition for Fathers and Children, for example, helps fathers to gain a fair custody agreement. Taking a proactive approach to understanding custody law will also be helpful.