Unmarried Fathers’ Rights in Custody and Parenting in Tennessee

Trusted Nashville divorce attorneys protecting families

Fathers who are not married to their child’s mother at the time of birth do not automatically have any rights to custody or visitation. A father must assert his rights in order to have a legal role in his child’s life. Dads who are eager to play the role of father in their child’s life may have a lot of questions and have a lot of fears about the process. At the law firm of Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC, we have more than 50 years of combined experience in representing fathers in paternity actions. We will be by your side through the whole process so that you and your child can begin to build a happy life together.

Establishing paternity

When a woman who is not married gives birth to a child in Tennessee, she automatically has custody of her child. The father must establish paternity in order to assert his rights, which include parenting time and custody. He and the child’s mother can acknowledge his paternity through a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” document at the hospital, or he can take a DNA test, but it is recommended that he speak with a lawyer before signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. After he has proved his paternity, the father can then petition the Tennessee court for custody or parenting time with his child.

Establishing child custody and support

The court determines which parent will have custody of the child. If parties can agree on joint custody, the Tennessee courts tend to encourage this so that the child can develop and maintain healthy, bonded relationships with both parents. However, many courts will not order joint custody in the event the parties do not agree upon it. The Court makes all child custody decisions on a case by case basis and with the best interests of the child in mind. One parent may get custody (the “primary residential parent) and the other visitation (the alternate residential parent), or both parents may share 50/50 custody as well as joint decision making.

When the court has decided on the custody arrangements, the court will order which parent will pay child support. The Tennessee Department of Human Services has published a free booklet, the Tennessee Child Support Handbook, which contains helpful information about your rights as a father to spend time with your child.

Parenting time for unmarried fathers

Both parents can agree to a parenting plan and establish a parenting time schedule that clearly outlines what time, including holidays and school vacations the child will be with each parent. If the two parents are unable to come to an agreement on a parenting time schedule, the court will create one that both parents must obey. If one parent interferes with the court ordered parenting time schedule there can be serious consequences. If you feel like your child’s mother is keeping you from spending time with your child, contact your family law attorney who can help protect your rights as your child’s father.

Contact an experienced, effective family law attorney today

If you are an unmarried father and you want to assert your rights to parenting time with your child, contact us at Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC. We work hard to inspire confidence and relieve stress for our clients during paternity, divorce and other family law disputes in the Nashville area. Call us today at 615-391-4200 or contact us online to schedule an in-person or video consultation with an experienced attorney.