Like most fathers in the Volunteer State, you want what is best for your children. You also want the legal protections that come with being a father. Still, the mother of your kids may attempt to argue that you are not their dad. If that is the case, you must know how to establish paternity in Tennessee.

Protecting your paternal rights is likely a top priority. If the mother of your children alleges that you are not the father, you may need to act quickly to prove her wrong and assert your parental rights. In Tennessee, you have two options: voluntary acknowledgment and involuntary paternity testing.

Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity

If you and the mother of your children were in a legal marriage at the time of their birth, Tennessee law presumes you are the father. If not married, both you and your children’s mother can voluntarily acknowledge your paternity. To do so, at the time of birth, you and your children’s mother complete a form, have it notarized and file it with a state agency. You can also complete the form later. Either way, the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity confirms that you are the father of your kids.

Involuntary proof of paternity

If the mother of your children disputes paternity, you may need to obtain proof that you are the father. Generally, this involves going to court. After a judge issues an order of parentage, you must submit to a DNA test. Thanks to modern science, the test usually only requires a quick swab of the inside of your cheek. Your children and their mother typically must also provide a DNA sample. After a typically quick test at a laboratory, results confirm your paternity. Then, a judge issues a parentage order, legally identifying you as the father of your kids.

There are a variety of legal and other reasons to establish paternity. If the mother of your children is asserting that you are not the father, though, pursuing paternity testing may be your best option for ensuring you have custody, visitation and other parental rights.