Knoxville Lawyers Helping Establish or Contest Paternity

Representing TN clients with matters of child support, custody, and visitation

As a parent, we know your number-one priority is the health and happiness of your child. When there are questions or issues regarding paternity – whether you want to establish it or contest it – it’s important you do the right thing the right way. Dealing with matters of paternity can be delicate and complex, especially when parents are unmarried or were only involved in a brief relationship.

At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville family law attorneys represent both mothers and fathers when they need to establish paternity for their children. We have decades of experience handling these types of cases with the sensitivity they deserve, working for a successful outcome for everyone involved – but mostly importantly, for your kids.

How do you establish paternity in Tennessee?

Paternity literally means “fatherhood. After all, we all know who the mother of a child is. If parents are married, the husband is automatically assumed to be the dad (also known as presumption of parentage). But if they’re not, the couple has to take some extra steps to establish paternity. Usually this happens in one of two ways:

  • Voluntarily. When the father acknowledges he’s the dad, he can sign a document called Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of the child’s birth. If he finds out about his alleged paternity after the child is born, he can do a DNA test before signing the document.
  • Involuntarily. If the father, or the mother, refuses to acknowledge paternity of a child, either parent has the right to file a Petition to Establish Parentage.

Establishing paternity can benefit everyone involved. Your child gets valuable information about their cultural and medical background, and possible access to insurance or other support through their father. Fathers can find out whether or not they’re required to pay child support. And, establishing paternity can provide an opening for an enriching new family relationship.

What rights do unmarried fathers have in Tennessee?

Here in Knoxville and throughout the state, if parents are unmarried, mothers automatically have physical and legal custody of their child until the father establishes paternity. Once you establish paternity through the court, though, you have the same rights as any other dad. (That includes child support!) If you want to be involved in your child’s life, you can petition the court for a custody hearing to work out a parenting or visitation agreement – depending on your child’s best interests and everyone’s circumstances.

You and your child’s mother can work up a parenting plan together, but if for whatever reason you can’t agree, the court will put together a plan for you that’s in the best interest of your child. The attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter can work through this process with you and your child’s other parent.

Why is it important for a mother to establish paternity?

As a mother, if you want certain rights for you and your child, you’ll need to establish paternity first. You’ll need it for things like:

  • Child support. To seek child support from a father, you need legal establishment of paternity. Then you can ask the court to assign support to help raise your child.
  • State support. The state of Tennessee offers a variety of support programs for food, healthcare, and housing – however, to qualify for benefits, you may have to establish paternity first.
  • Health insurance. To be listed on a father’s insurance plan, many companies require proof of paternity for coverage.

Why is it important for a father to establish paternity?

If you’re a dad who wants to be a part of their child’s life, it’s vital you establish paternity. Paternity gives you the legal right to do things like:

  • Pursue custody or visitation rights. You must establish legal paternity to petition for the right to visitation or child custody.
  • Participate in your child’s upbringing. With custody and visitation rights also comes the right to be involved in life decisions regarding your child, including medical, educational, and cultural choices.
  • Ensure your child stays close. If you don’t establish paternity, the mother has every right to move the child out of state, which can make it very hard to establish a relationship with your child when they are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

How do you put a father’s name on a birth certificate in Tennessee?

According to the state, you have a couple ways to add a father’s name to a birth certificate. If you, as the mother, have married the father since your baby was born, Tennessee will issue a new certificate if you meet the following:

  1. There is not a father listed on the child’s birth certificate.
  2. The mother was not legally married to someone else at the time the child was born or within 300 days prior to the child’s birth.
  3. The child’s mother and father both desire to have the father’s name listed on the birth certificate.
  4. TheApplication for New Certificate of Birth by Subsequent Marriage of Parents is completed, signed by both parents, notarized and submitted to this office.
  5. The appropriate fee is paid.

If you haven’t married the father but you both still want him on the birth certificate after the fact, you can complete the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. A new birth certificate can be issued provided you meet the 5 steps listed above.

The Knoxville paternity lawyers at LaFevor & Slaughter can go over this process with you to ensure every document is filled out properly and the process goes easily and efficiently – making your family complete as soon as possible.

What is paternity fraud?

Although it doesn’t happen often, paternity fraud is a thing. If you’re named as the father of a child, but you’re unsure if you actually are, you should consider DNA testing. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will intentionally name the wrong person as the father of their child, for reasons we may or may not understand. However, this is legally fraud. Typically, the elements of paternity fraud include:

  • Making a false statement
  • Knowing the statement was false
  • Statement was intended to deceive the victim
  • Statement influenced victim’s decision

If you sign a birth certificate, you’re also signing on for legal obligations and responsibilities for a child, which is the honorable and right thing to do – if it’s your child. These types of cases can be tricky, especially if you’ve already signed a birth certificate. But don’t worry; we can help.

Knowledgeable Knoxville paternity attorneys

The decision of having a child in your life should be yours – not anyone else’s. Our family law attorneys understand these matters can be delicate, and that’s how we handle them. Come sit down with us at LaFevor & Slaughter, and we’ll work together to find a solution to your problems. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our contact form today.