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What You Need to Know About a Father’s Rights 

Middle Tennessee Family Law Jan. 16, 2023

It is important for fathers in Tennessee to understand their rights pertaining to child custody/visitation cases before showing up to a hearing on these matters. Fathers who are adequately prepared with relevant documents outlining their involvement with their children prior to filing for court action may find themselves better equipped when presenting their case before a judge. 

Contact us at Middle Tennessee Family Law to discuss your options with our paternity attorney. We want to help you take the best course of action when it comes to protecting your rights as a father in Tennessee. From our office in Franklin, Tennessee, we provide legal guidance to clients throughout Middle Tennessee, including Nashville and Murfreesboro.  

Establishing Paternity in Tennessee  

Fathers in Tennessee should take steps to ensure they have established legal paternity so they can enforce all of their rights relating to their children’s care and custody. 

In the state of Tennessee, fathers have specific rights when it comes to child custody. However, before a father can exercise those rights, he must first establish paternity. There are two ways for a father to voluntarily establish paternity in Tennessee:  

  1. Acknowledgment of Paternity. The first way to establish paternity is through an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. This form is filled out by both parents and filed with the State Department of Health Vital Records Office or the State Department of Human Services. Once this form is filed and accepted, it becomes a legal finding that the named man is indeed the biological father of the child.  

  1. Order Establishing Parentage. The second way a father can establish paternity in Tennessee is with an Order Establishing Parentage. These orders are issued by a court after both parents agree that they are the legal parents of the child and are usually filed along with an Acknowledgment of Paternity Form. 

If either parent does not agree to a voluntary paternity establishment, then involuntary paternity establishment must be pursued as an alternative route to legally recognize a father’s relationship with his child. An involuntary paternity establishment occurs when either parent requests a court hearing to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. If it is determined that he is indeed the biological father, the father will be required to pay child support and may also be ordered to pay for other costs associated with having a child, such as medical bills or educational expenses. 

Fathers’ Rights to Make Decisions About Their Children 

In Tennessee, the law generally assumes that both parents should have a role in raising their children. As such, courts will usually award joint physical and legal custody of children (if it is in the children’s best interests). Joint physical custody means that both parents have the right to spend time with the child, while joint legal custody means that both parents have a say in major decisions regarding the child’s health and welfare (i.e., education, medical treatment, etc.).  

It is important to note that joint physical and legal custody does not necessarily mean equal time or decision-making power. Instead, it simply means that both parents have a say in matters concerning the child’s care. 

Fathers’ Rights to Custody/Visitation  

Fathers have the same rights as mothers when it comes to child custody/visitation in Tennessee. That being said, there are certain steps fathers can take to ensure they receive fair consideration from the court. For starters, fathers should be prepared to demonstrate their involvement with their children prior to filing for custody/visitation rights. This could be done by demonstrating evidence of:  

  • Regular contact via phone calls or visits; 

  • Proof of financial support; and 

  • Evidence of active participation in the child’s school activities or other extracurricular activities. 

If there are any issues between you and your ex-partner (such as domestic violence), you, as a father, should be prepared to present evidence proving your innocence or demonstrating that any problems were resolved amicably. 

When going before a judge for a hearing regarding your parental rights, it is crucial to be prepared with all relevant documents and evidence outlining your involvement with the child prior to filing for court action. Additionally, you should also be familiar with Tennessee state laws regarding parental rights so you can effectively argue your case in front of a judge. Finally, it is always helpful if you come armed with suggestions on how parenting plans could be modified or altered so that everyone involved receives fair consideration from the court system. 

Fathers’ Rights Pertaining to Child Support  

Fathers’ rights pertaining to child support in Tennessee depend on establishing legal paternity between them and their children. If a father’s paternity is not established, he cannot be required to pay child support. Also, it is a common misconception that only the father can be required to pay child support after a divorce.  

Typically, courts will award child support based on the income of both parents and the custody arrangement. Other factors considered by Tennessee courts for child support calculations include, but are not limited to: 

  • Each parent’s financial situation 

  • Child care expenses 

  • The number of days the child spends with each parent per year 

  • The child’s health care premiums 

  • The child’s educational expenses 

It is always best to speak to an experienced family law attorney in order to understand your rights and obligations with regard to paying or receiving child support. 

Realistic & Experienced Legal Guidance  

Seeking legal counsel is one of the most important things a father can do to protect their rights when it comes to child custody and visitation in Tennessee. Our family law attorney at Middle Tennessee Family Law can provide valuable advice and help make sure your rights and best interests are taken into account in any court proceedings. Contact our office in Franklin, Tennessee, today to schedule your free case evaluation.