Many unmarried people in Tennessee have children. While the mothers automatically have parental rights, unmarried fathers must prove the paternity of their children before they will have rights as fathers. After they have established their paternity, unmarried fathers can seek to establish their rights to custody and visitation.

Testing for paternity

In some cases, an unmarried father’s paternity will be disputed. In a contested paternity case, either party may request paternity testing. When a parent files a motion in court to establish paternity, the court will issue an order to the other party to comply with the testing. The parent and the child will both undergo the tests, and the results will be sent to a lab to obtain the results. If the results show that the unmarried father is the child’s parent, the father will be able to pursue his rights.

Historically, paternity testing was done by a blood test. However, DNA testing is now performed and is highly accurate. The father and child will either have blood drawn for a DNA test or have a buccal scrape performed. The buccal scrape involves rubbing the inside of the child’s and father’s cheeks with a cotton swab to collect skin cells for DNA analysis.

Seeking legal help

Unmarried fathers who want to establish their fathers’ rights to visitation and custody might want to get help from experienced family law attorneys. An attorney may help their client to file the petitions to establish paternity in court. When the order is issued, the mother will have to produce the child so that he or she can be tested to determine whether a man is the father. If the unmarried father establishes his paternity, the attorney might help him to file a petition for custody and visitation so that he can develop a strong relationship with his child.