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Do unmarried fathers have to legally adopt their children?

| Apr 3, 2016 | Fathers' Rights

The traditional family unit has really changed over the last couple of decades. Plenty of happy, healthy Tennessee families do not consist of the traditional family unit of years past. When a mother and father decide to have a child when they are unmarried, certain legal processes apply for a father to claim paternity. Once paternity is determined, things like parenting plans and child custody arrangements can be discussed.

Sometimes the birth of a child comes as a big surprise to a father. There can be time window in which a father can claim his right to paternity and fathers’ rights. In order to seek paternity, DNA testing is usually utilized, however, an unmarried father must legally adopt their child during the paternity process in order to have any rights. Parental rights include rights to child custody and visitation.

To answer the earlier question, yes, fathers must legally adopt their child in order to gain parental rights when the father and mother are unmarried. However, this is a legal formality prior to the real goal of seeking paternal rights. The same goals still apply in that a father wants to foster a relationship with their child, despite the parents decision to live separate lives. Gaining legal paternity is the first step to achieving that goal.

There is no more important relationship in a child’s life than their relationship with their parent. No other person will influence their life in such a significant way. So, if you are a father who wants a relationship with their child, do not hesitate. There is never a moment too soon to kick-start such a rewarding and important relationship.

Source:, “Parental rights: Unmarried fathers and paternity,” Accessed March 28, 2016


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