If you are an unmarried parent, establishing paternity for your child is critically important. Legal paternity means both parents have the right to a relationship with the child and legal obligations to provide support and care.
Whether you seek to establish or deny paternity, consult a local family attorney to learn about the procedures that apply in your case. A seasoned Red Bank paternity lawyer could offer learned counsel and practical advice about the paternity issue that concerns you.
Taking legal action to establish paternity is not always necessary. The law presumes a man is a child’s legal parent if he and the mother were married when the child was born or within 300 days before the birth.
If a man and the mother marry after a child’s birth, the law presumes the man is the father if he signed the child’s birth certificate, registered as the father with the Office of Vital Records, or agreed to support the child. If the man brought the child into his home and led people to believe he was the child’s father, the law would assume paternity.
However, the assumption of paternity is rebuttable. For example, if a husband believes someone else is the father of a child his wife bore during the marriage, the husband could challenge the child’s paternity. A knowledgeable Red Bank attorney could advise a parent whether the law assumes a specific person is the father of a child or whether further action is necessary to establish paternity.
If the mother and father are unmarried, they could file a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAoP). Both parents must sign this document confirming they are the biological parents of a specific child.
The couple signs the VAoP before a notary and files it with the Office of Vital Records. Acknowledging paternity gives both parents legal parental rights. If the couple separates, both parents have equal rights to custody, visitation, and child support. An experienced paternity lawyer in Red Bank could explain the rights a VAoP confers in detail during a private meeting.
If the mother gave birth while married to someone other than the biological father or was married to another person within 300 days of the birth, establishing paternity is more complicated. If the divorce decree states that the former husband is not the child’s father, the biological parents must attach a copy of the decree to the VAoP. If the decree does not mention the child, a VAoP is ineffective, and the parents must establish paternity through a DNA test.
If a man wishes to establish his parental rights or a woman seeks to hold the biological father responsible for the child, they can bring a motion to establish paternity in court. The court will order a genetic test which is presumptive evidence of paternity. The alleged father and the child must provide a DNA sample to complete the test. If the DNA analysis establishes that the man is the child’s father, the court will issue an order of parentage naming the man the child’s father.
If a mother receives public assistance, a county social services agency might seek child support from the father. If the agency successfully proves paternity, it could force the man to pay child support. The man could petition the court for other parental rights such as custody and visitation.
According to Tennessee Code 36-2-306, a parent or the child could bring a motion to establish parentage anytime between the child’s birth and their 21st birthday. Once a man is named a child’s father, the child has inheritance rights to the father’s estate.
Legal paternity is important for parents and children. Parents gain the joy and purpose that comes from having a child to nurture and prepare for life, and the children gain an understanding of who they are and where they come from. The child also receives the legal benefits of child support and inheritance.
If you want to establish or dispute paternity, contact a Red Bank paternity lawyer for help. A skilled legal professional could explain the best strategy to achieve your goals and help you implement it. Reach out today.