Can an unmarried Tennessee father seek shared parenting time?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2023 | Fathers Rights |

The average new parent in Tennessee likely doesn’t know much about state law and will, therefore, be at a loss as to their legal rights and responsibilities if they find themselves fighting with the other parent of their child. Married couples generally understand that state law protects their rights as parents, but unmarried parents, especially fathers, often find themselves in an uncomfortable position if the relationship with the mother of their child becomes unstable.

Unmarried fathers all too often believe the urban legend that says their rights are completely dependent on the goodwill of the mother of their child. However, unmarried fathers in Tennessee have essentially the same rights as all parents, provided that their paternity has been confirmed.

Unmarried fathers can ask for shared custody

A man does not need to marry the mother of his children to have a right to shared custody arrangements under Tennessee family law. A father’s involvement is important for the social and emotional development of a child, and the state will work with a father who wants to play an active role in the lives of his children regardless of his marital status. The main difference between an unmarried father’s rights and a married father’s rights is that an unmarried father will need to establish his paternity with the state to secure time with his children from the courts. Tennessee has several straightforward methods of establishing paternity.

Unmarried fathers can fill out paperwork with the cooperation of the mother of their children which can add their names to the birth certificates. It is possible to take this step when a child first joins a family or at any point while they are still a minor. Unfortunately, many fathers experiencing a shift in their relationship with the mother of their children will not have her full support and cooperation. Even when the mother does not wish to acknowledge the father, the Tennessee family courts have the authority to order paternity testing that can establish within a very small margin of error that a man is the biological father of a child.

Once a man has established paternity through genetic testing or cooperation with the mother, he can then make use of the same parental rights as any other father. He can go to court and ask for parenting time and a degree of legal decision-making authority for his children.

Although unmarried fathers may have to take an extra step or two along the way, they can still play a very important, active role in the lives of their children. Learning about the laws governing parental rights and responsibilities in Tennessee can help unmarried fathers more effectively show up for their children.