With fathers' rights evolving over time, many unmarried fathers in Tennessee as well as in the rest of the United States, are voluntarily stepping forward to acknowledge their paternity. However, establishing paternity requires that a father follows certain rules to gain parental rights over a child. In fact, establishing paternity is one of the primary requirements of a child support arrangement, which goes a long way to protect the best interests of a child.
In the state of Tennessee, the Department of Human Services handles matters related to paternity. According to existing Tennessee laws, paternity can be established only until a child turns 21-years-old. Paternity can be voluntarily established by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form in the hospital, the child support office, the local health department's office or the Office of Vital Records.
There may be some cases where a father does not voluntarily acknowledge paternity. In such cases, court-ordered DNA testing can determine the paternity of a child. If the test results prove a genetic match, paternity will be officially established by a Tennessee court.
Another way of establishing paternity is through Tennessee's Putative Father Registry. The purpose of the Registry, which is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, is to provide fathers with an opportunity to claim parentage and, at the same time, provide necessary information in case disputes related to child custody, child support and adoption, among others, come up. Establishing paternity through the Putative Father Registry is especially necessary if a child is born out of wedlock.
Because issues related to paternity and fathers' rights often tend to be complicated, many people may feel the need for professional guidance to ensure that their rights, as well as those of their children, are protected. Therefore, to safeguard those interests, they may consider consulting a family law attorney who can guide them through the entire paternity establishment process.
Source: TN.gov, "Tennessee Child Support Handbook," Accessed on Oct. 7, 2014