Paternity

When parents of a child are not married, the Father must file a petition in the juvenile court to establish his paternity. Mothers of children who are born out-of-wedlock are presumed to have custody of the child until the Father files a petition to paternitybrentwooddivorcelawyerbe recognized as the legal father and to have a judge determine custody and a parenting schedule.

It is important for fathers to know that simply being listed as the father on a child’s birth certificate does not establish you as the child’s legal father. You will only be entitled to visitation with your child once you are recognized as the legal father by the courts.

You can establish your paternity in several ways. First, you may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. These forms are often presented to fathers at the hospital, along with the birth certificate. Secondly, you may request that a DNA test be performed. Finally, you and the mother can both swear in court that you are the father, and you will not be allowed to go back on this statement in any later court proceedings.

In Tennessee, paternity can be established either “voluntarily” or “involuntarily” until the child turns 21 years old.  When the mother and father agree that the father is in fact the biological father, paternity can be established voluntarily. To voluntarily establish paternity, both the father and mother must sign what’s called a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.”

This is often done at the hospital when the child is born. The form can also be obtained and signed later at the child support office, local health department, or the Office of Vital Records. The mother and father must both sign the same form in front of a notary. Once signed and notarized, the Acknowledgment of Paternity must be filed with, or sent to, the Office of Vital Records. Once properly filed, the father is the legal father of the child and his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.

Involuntary establishment of paternity is done through a court proceeding where the court issues an “order of parentage.” This method is called “involuntary” because someone disputes paternity, which is why it becomes a court issue.

You begin the court process by filing a “Petition to Establish Parentage” at a court located in the county where either the mother, father, or child lives. A number of people may file the petition: the mother, the father, the child (through a guardian), or the Tennessee Department of Human Services if the child is receiving public assistance.

If either the mother or the father denies or is uncertain of paternity, the court may order DNA testing. Today, a DNA test requires that the child, mother, and father have the inside of their cheeks swabbed. The DNA is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. If, after DNA testing, the court determines that the father is in fact the biological father, the court will issue an order of parentage, making the father the legal father and his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate. Within the proceeding to determine paternity, the court can also issue orders of custody, visitation, and child support.

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