Having a child is such a gift, but when you and your partner have a child out of wedlock, there can be issues that arise, especially if you break up. Added to the complications is if the relationship has soured before the child is born, leaving you further out of the child’s life. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, our goal is to ensure that the child’s best interests are served, including having a relationship with both parents.
Father’s Rights in Child Custody
In Tennessee, unmarried couples who have children face different issues when it comes to custody. In general, the mother will get both physical and legal custody until the father establishes paternity. However, once established, the father can pursue custody rights just as he would if they were married.
Unfortunately, fathers who do not obtain legal advice on getting custody or shared custody face obstacles. This is why it is critical to establish paternity and get a lawyer right away.
To establish paternity, you will either need agreement from the child’s mother or, in cases where the mother does not allow this, you have a right to petition the court to designate you as your child’s father.
Paternity establishment requires genetic testing, as well as an affidavit to the courts. Remember, even if paternity is granted, the mother has a right to choose the child’s last name. However, you may be able to petition the court to legally change the child’s last name. The court will review:
If the name change is within the child’s preference;
How the change will impact the child’s relationship with each parent;
How long the child has had his or her present surname;
The community association with the present and proposed surname; and
Any difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing either name.
My child’s mother remarried. Do I still have rights?
If you and your child’s mother never married and now she plans to, you may have fears over your rights to be in the child’s life.
Under Tennessee law, you are presumed to be the child’s father under the following circumstances:
The child is born within 300 days after your marriage to the mother is determined invalid or you divorced.
You attempted to legally marry each other but your marriage was declared illegal, void or voidable and you acknowledged paternity in writing; consented in writing to be named the child’s father on the birth certificate; or are obligated to pay child support under a written voluntary promise or court order.
The child lived with you in your home as a minor and you openly held the child out as your biological child.
You took a paternity test and based on the results, there is at least a 95% chance of you being the father.
Remember, once paternity is established, you have a right to shared parenting time, so long as it is in the best interest of the child. You are legally allowed to petition the court for a custody hearing and work to create a parenting agreement with the child’s mother. If you and the child’s mother cannot come to an agreement, the court will develop a schedule.
Father’s Rights in Tennessee: Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC
The modern family unit is changing, which means that you need to be well-versed in Tennessee family law to know if your rights as a father have been violated. But knowing who to trust and where to turn to for guidance can be difficult. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, we work with fathers who wish to have a relationship with their children while ensuring that the best interests of the child are not overlooked.
We’re here for you and your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.