If you are an unwed father, you will want to know your rights and obligations, particularly if you are not living with your child’s mother or plan to separate. You might need to establish paternity, petition for custody or visitation and be aware of how child support works under Tennessee law.
Be legally recognized as the child’s father
Unwed fathers must establish their paternity. This can be done in different ways depending on your situation. Your options include:
- Being present during the birth and helping to fill out the child’s birth certificate to ensure your name is listed as the father
- Filing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form
- Petitioning the court for paternity rights, which will include taking a paternity test
- Getting on the state’s paternity registry
Know your paternity rights
Once you have established paternity, you have the same rights as a married father of the child, which means you have the legal authority to make decisions about the child’s well-being together with the mother. If you and the mother are not living together, you can petition for shared or joint custody. If you do not want to share custody, you might also petition for visitation. Since custody decisions are made with the best interest of the child as the guideline, you might also petition a court to grant full custody if the mother is unfit to take care of the child.
Understand your legal responsibilities
With rights, you will also have legal responsibilities. As the legal father of your child, you will also be responsible, along with the mother, for their financial support. If you are not living with the mother of your child, you will probably have to pay child support. Each state has its own formula for calculating the amount that is owed.