Establishing paternity is very important when you are an unmarried father. Under Tennessee law, you have no rights to your child until you secure a legal determination of paternity. This does not mean you have to go court or undergo DNA tests, though. You can establish your rights in the hospital when your baby is born if you are aware of this option.

The Department of Human Services explains that while in the hospital, you may be offered a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. The VAoP is a legal document that allows you to declare paternity without having to go through the court.

You may sign the VAoP regardless of your age as long as you know you are the father of the child. If you have any doubts or the mother has any doubts, neither of you should sign the form. You should note the mother’s signature must be on the form for it to be complete.

Signing this form makes you legally responsible for the child. It does not automatically create a child support obligation, but it does make you responsible under the law for providing for the child, so it can be the basis for a child support case against you. In addition, it also does not create custody orders. You must go to court for that as well.

The VAoP gives you rights under the law to your child. It allows you to secure paternity without having to get court orders or go through testing for DNA. If you know you are the father and the mother is in agreement, you can sign this form at the hospital or at a later date through the health department or child support office. This information is for education and is not legal advice.