Fathers' Rights Attorney in Franklin, Tennessee
Being a parent is the most important role you’ll ever play in life. Children thrive when they have a meaningful and consistent connection with their parents—but all too often, one parent may be left out of the picture. Although societal norms and trends are shifting, it’s often the father who’s left out.
Fathers deserve to be in the child’s life just as much as the mother and it’s essential to uphold and fight for your paternal rights. If you’d like help establishing paternity and are in Franklin or anywhere else in Middle Tennessee including Murfreesboro and Nashville, reach out to our team. At Middle Tennessee Family Law, our family law attorney is here to help you move forward.
Establishing Paternity in Tennessee
Establishing paternity for a child has several benefits. The most important of these is for the child themselves since they’ll now know definitively who both their parents are. This allows the child to develop a relationship with each side of their family while also learning about their heritage, and potentially accessing benefits like health care. It’s also beneficial on a practical level to have a better understanding of their family medical history which can inform their healthcare decisions.
A father can also benefit from proving their paternity to help with custody decisions or to establish a parenting plan or visitation schedule and share in the responsibilities of parenting. Families as a whole can benefit from the establishment of paternity since legally both parents are required to provide for their child. A paternity test or acknowledgment can mean more financial support for the child.
Typically, there are two main avenues for establishing paternity: voluntary and involuntary.
The easiest and quickest method to establish paternity is through voluntary means. This is usually done at the hospital after the birth of the child. If the two parents are not married, only the mother will be automatically assumed to be the parent, but both parents can sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” and this becomes legally binding. This form can also be signed after the family has left the hospital, but it must be done in front of a notary and then sent to the Office of Vital Records.
When two parents cannot agree to the paternity of a child, they will need to resort to legal means by requesting a court proceeding. Either parent can file a form called a “Petition to Establish Parentage” in the county they live in (or if the child is old enough, the child can file this form). In some cases, one parent will concede to establishing paternity. In other cases, a judge may have to order a DNA test to be performed on the involved family members. When the results of the test are obtained, the judge can then issue the order of parentage.
Fathers’ Right To Make Decisions About Their Child
Unless otherwise specified by a court order, both parents should have an equal say in making choices about their child.
This includes major decisions about issues like what kind of school the child is enrolled in, what kind of medical care they receive, what kind of religion they’re brought up in, and where they live. This can only change if the court establishes one parent as the sole legal guardian.
Fathers’ Rights To Custody/Visitation
If you believe you’re the father of a child and have been denied or limited child custody or visitation rights by the mother, filing a Petition to Establish Paternity can help you secure these rights. Unless a court deems you unfit to be a parent—meaning the child is neglected or abused in some way or that they’re in danger of abuse when they’re under your care—you are entitled to parenting time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be granted joint custody. In most cases, though, a judge will attempt to structure an agreement where the child has regular and meaningful contact with both parents. Above all, the courts consider the best interests of the child.
Fathers’ Rights Pertaining To Child Support
One common reason mothers file a Petition to Establish Paternity is to obtain child support from the father. Under state law, both parents are financially responsible for supporting their children, regardless of the role they play in their lives. Therefore, once paternity is determined, the court can mandate that the father start paying child support. When deciding on this, the court will take several factors into consideration:
the financial means of both the mother and the father
the amount of time the child spends with each parent
the needs of the child (for example, if they need specialized medical or educational services)
whether there are other children the parents are supporting
each parent's standard of living
Father’s Rights Attorney in Franklin, Tennessee
If you’re a father but have not legally established paternity for your child, reach out to our team at Middle Tennessee Family Law in Franklin, Tennessee, to get started.