Becoming a father takes more than just the act of getting someone pregnant. It also involves the decision to stand up and take responsibility for that life you helped create.
Excluding adoption, which is an entirely separate process, there are three ways in which a man with a biological connection to a child can legally become the father of that child, a process sometimes called establishing paternity. What are the options for establishing paternity as a father in Tennessee?
- Marry the mother of your child before their birth
The easiest way to become a legal father is to be the spouse of a woman who gives birth. Tennessee has presumptive paternity for married couples. Unless you take action attesting to the contrary, the state will assume you are the father and place your name on the birth certificate of any child born to your spouse during your marriage.
- Agree with the mother to fill out voluntary paternity paperwork
If you were not the spouse of the mother, you can still agree they have your name appear on the birth certificate.
Provided that there is no question about your identity as the father, you and the mother can jointly execute a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Filling out this document and submitting it to the state will give you parental rights and allow you to add your name to the birth certificate.
- Ask the courts to help you prove paternity through genetic testing
Sometimes, either due to a failed relationship or complicated situations, a mother does not want to acknowledge the father of her child. If you strongly believe you are the biological father of the child but the mother refuses to cooperate with you, you may need to ask the court to order testing.
With a court order involved, the mother of the child cannot continue to refuse testing without running afoul of the law and being in contempt of court. Genetic testing can quickly and conclusively resolve any confusion about the paternity of your child.
Legally establishing yourself as a father is the first step to having all of the rights that come with being a parent in Tennessee. Taking these steps will help you as the father and will inevitably benefit your child as well.