Murfreesboro child custody attorney

Father’s Rights: What Every Father Needs to Know in Tennessee

Becoming a father should be a joyous event in any man’s life. If your relationship with the child’s mother is not solid when you learn of the pregnancy, or the relationship falls apart after the child is born, fatherhood can be a legal quagmire. Because every situation involves unique facts it is crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you have questions about your rights as a father. To provide a general overview, however, a Murfreesboro family law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses father’s rights in Tennessee.

Pregnancy and Adoption: What Are My Rights as a Father?

You learn that you are the father of a child; however, the mother plans to give the child up for adoption. Can you do anything? Do you have rights as the father of an unborn child? The answers depend on your legal status at the time of the adoption. In Tennessee, a father must consent to an adoption if any of the following apply:

  • The child’s legal parent, meaning you are married to the mother, or you were married to the mother within 300 days of the child’s birth.
  • You were declared to be the father of the child by the adoption court after the filing of the petition to adopt but before the adoption is finalized.
  • You are the child’s putative biological father.

This issue comes up most often when the alleged father is not, and has never been, married to the mother of the child. In that case, if you wish to Murfreesboro child custody attorneyhave any say relating to a planned adoption, you must establish legal paternity. The legal term for a man who believes himself to be the biological father of a child born out of wedlock, but who has not yet legally established paternity, is a “putative” father. It is critical to understand the difference between being a biological father and a legal father. If you believe you are the father of an unborn child in Tennessee, you should register with the “Putative Father Registry.” Administered by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the Putative Father Registry allows a prospective father who is not legally married to the mother to register information about themselves, the mother, and the child so they can be notified about possible future adoption proceedings. Registering provides legal notice of intent to claim paternity of the child. It also ensures that you must be notified if the child becomes the subject of an adoption proceeding.

Establishing Paternity of a Child after Birth

If you are the father of a child born out of wedlock it is equally important that you establish legal paternity. Contrary to popular belief, simply including your name on the child’s birth certificate does not establish paternity. If you fail to legally establish paternity of the child, the child’s mother retains full custodial rights to the child, meaning you effectively have no right to parenting time with your child should the relationship with the mother not work out.

Paternity can be established in two ways in Tennessee.  If both parents agree they can sign a legal form referred to as a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAoP) and sign the form in front of a notary public. This is frequently done at the hospital shortly after the child is born. If one (or both) parents do not agree to signing the VAoP, paternity can be established by a court process that may include a court order for a DNA test to confirm paternity. Once legal paternity is established, a father gains the same rights and responsibilities to the child that the mother has, including both the right to parenting time with the child and an obligation to share in the financial cost of raising the child. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney 

If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a father in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro family law lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael