Paternity Basics in Tennessee


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Paternity refers to the rights and obligations conferred to fathers of children under the law.  Because the mother is present at every birth, her identification as a parent is guaranteed.  However, there are often issues determining the father of a child, and that is where paternity law comes into play.  If the couple is married, or was married at the time of conception, the husband is presumed to be the father.  However, if they are not married, then the alleged father can voluntarily take responsibility as the father.  If there is a dispute as to who the father is, the mother or alleged father of the child can bring an action to establish paternity.


Establishing Paternity in Tennessee


While every case will vary based on the particular facts, there are several different ways paternity may be established in Tennessee when a child is born to a single mother.  The easiest process is when the father volunteers.  In the event he is present for the birth of the child, he may simply sign a declaration of paternity, which puts his name on the child’s birth certificate as the father.  If he is not present at the birth, but still wants to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, then he may draw up an affidavit acknowledging paternity of the child at any point up to the child reaching the age of majority.  He will then enter his information with the putative father registry.


If the father will not voluntarily acknowledge paternity or cannot be found, then the mother may initiate a paternity action seeking to establish paternity.  The first step is to contact their local child support enforcement office.  There, the mother will be briefed as to what the process entails and the office will attempt to locate the father if necessary.  Once the alleged father is contacted, he will be asked to acknowledge paternity of the child voluntarily through an affidavit. 


If the alleged father refuses to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, then he will be asked to submit to a paternity test.  If he refuses paternity testing, the court may still establish paternity through other evidence, such as testimony by the mother or other parties.  If the results come back as positive, then there will be a statutory period where the father may bring an action to contest the results.  Once that period ends, then the results become binding and he will be deemed the father under the law. 


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