Franklin Paternity Attorney
When a child is born to married parents, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father, absent some evidence to the contrary. If the parents are unmarried at the time of birth, however, the child does not have a “legal father” in the eyes of Tennessee family law. Even if the parent is the child’s biological father, without establishing legal parentage, the father cannot enforce legal rights to custody or visitation, and the mother cannot enforce legal rights to child support from the father.
Establishing fatherhood is critical for these matters and many other important reasons as well. The Franklin paternity attorneys at Fort, Holloway, & Rogers can guide you through the steps of establishing paternity under Tennessee law. If paternity is contested and court action is necessary, our lawyers represent mothers, putative fathers and other interested parties in litigation in the Williamson County courts. See below for general information about paternity, or call our office for advice and assistance in your Franklin paternity matter.
Establishing Paternity in Tennessee
Fatherhood is critical to the essential issues of child custody and child support. An unmarried mother is presumed to have custody of the child in Tennessee, but without establishing paternity, the child won’t have any right to child support, health insurance or help with child care expenses from the father. In addition to these vital issues, determining parentage is crucial to providing the child with a sense of identity and creating a sense of responsibility for the father. It’s also important to know one’s parentage and family medical history. Finally, a child is entitled by law to certain benefits through his or her father, including inheritance rights, health insurance through the father’s employment, and benefits based on the father’s Social Security or veterans benefits.
The easiest way for an unmarried couple to establish paternity is by completing and signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAoP). This document must be signed by both parents and notarized, although the parents don’t have to sign it at the same time. A VAoP form should be available at the hospital. If signed at birth, the hospital will enter the father’s name on the child’s original birth certificate. The parties can also sign a VAoP at a later date by going through their local Health Department, Child Support Office or the State Office of Vital Records, but this process can be more cumbersome and time-consuming. Parents can rescind their VAoP within 60 days of signing.
Parents have until the child turns 21 to establish paternity, but the VAoP route to paternity stops when the child turns 19. Without a voluntary acknowledgment, paternity needs to be established through DNA testing and a court order or a paternity case filed in court. You can schedule DNA testing with the child support office or seek a court hearing to establish paternity and set support. A paternity hearing in court would likely include DNA testing as well, although the parties could produce other evidence to confirm or deny the putative father’s parentage.
A paternity action could conceivably be brought by a mother, a presumed father, another man alleged to be the father, or the child. Different parties bring paternity actions for different reasons, and paternity might be contested by different parties depending on the case. The family law attorneys at Fort, Holloway, & Rogers have extensive experience inside and outside the courtroom and will take a strategic approach to protect your interests in a Williamson County paternity case, helping you achieve your goals and a favorable outcome that meets your needs.
Help With Paternity in Franklin and Williamson County
For help with a paternity case or other family law matters in Franklin, call Fort, Holloway, & Rogers at 615-791-7575 for a clear and honest assessment of your situation and practical advice on how best to proceed.