Whether you’ve got a newborn on the way or have an older child, establishing paternity is important — not just for legal reasons but also emotionally. Not only does it provide a sense of security and stability for the child, but it also benefits the father by allowing his involvement in the parenting decisions.
What else does establishing paternity provide, and how is the process initiated?
How is paternity determined?
Paternity can be established in Tennessee until the child turns 21 years old. If a couple is married or divorced less than 300 days before the child’s birth, the husband is assumed to be the legal father. If the couple is unmarried, paternity can be either voluntary or involuntary.
Voluntary establishment of paternity occurs when the parents agree on the biological relationship between father and child. In Tennessee, the mother and the alleged father can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAoP) form, legally recognizing the father as the child’s biological parent. This form can be signed at the hospital after the child is born or at the Tennessee Department of Health’s Vital Records Office.
If there is a dispute between the alleged father and the mother about his biological relationship to the child, a court order may be necessary to establish paternity. The Child Support Office will file a petition, which may involve DNA testing.
Establishing paternity has several benefits for both the child and the father. For children, paternity provides access to the father’s medical history for possible medical treatment in the future. Legal recognition of paternity also grants children the right to all legal benefits of having a father, like social security, inheritance rights, and life insurance.
For fathers, paternity gives them the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent, like having custody or visitation rights, making decisions about the child’s upbringing, and providing financial support.
If either parent wishes to rescind legal paternity, it must be done within sixty days. Therefore, it is imperative for the alleged father to understand all of the legal rights and responsibilities that come with the establishment of paternity.