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How an unmarried father can get custody

Posted by James Judkins | Aug 05, 2020 | 0 Comments

In Tennessee, absent a custody order to the contrary, custody for a child born outside of wedlock is with the mother. Many individuals believe they can agree to give custody or agree to paternity, outside of the court process. They are mistaken. Only a court of competent jurisdiction can determine paternity and legally grant custody or parenting time. You should begin any legal process by contacting your trusted family lawyer. Don't try to do it yourself because it is likely you will not get far. You are held to the same standard as a licensed attorney. Your case is dependent upon facts and circumstances. One bad fact can change your outcome. If there is a strong belief you are the father, are presumed to be the father, and you want a relationship with the child your lawyer will file a petition to establish paternity and to enter a parenting plan.

You should know about presumptions of paternity which can be rebutted. The most common presumptions of paternity are as follows: a man's written voluntarily promise to pay support the child, a man agreeing for his name to go on the birth certificate, executing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. There is also a presumption of paternity if there is a 95% probability of paternity on a DNA test from an accredited laboratory. Those presumptions of paternity can be rebutted with proper evidence which is why you need a family lawyer. However, if the laboratory testing shows a 99% chance of paternity, certain rules apply to rebut that presumption the individual is the father. Most courts in our modern environment require DNA testing in almost all cases. A cheap and unreliable DNA testing kit from Walgreens isn't sufficient for the courts as it must be from an accredited laboratory. Occasionally the caregiver will refuse to cooperate so your lawyer will motion the court to enter an order requiring other parent to bring the child in for testing. Once the court determines paternity, the new father will have the same rights as any other father, and with proper pleadings filed by your lawyer, the court will determine parenting time for both parents including child support obligations.

If the mother is married and a child is conceived by another individual, you should contact your family lawyer without delay as certain rules apply to establishing paternity.

The legislature has determined parents not only have a legal duty to pay for the support of their children but they also have a moral duty as well. The court determines child support based on a complex algorithm promulgated by the Department of Human Services, child support guidelines. 

About me

I am Jim Judkins and for a decade family law has been a big part of my practice. I enjoy helping people. Located in the heart of Murfreesboro and in Smithville, Tennessee, I represent clients in family law situations all throughout Tennessee. Helping people successfully through the some of the most turbulent times of their lives gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from James M. Judkins, attorney or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient's state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.


About the Author

James Judkins

About James M. “Jim” Judkins, Attorney at Law Professionalism and Dedication are the hallmarks of my life. Mr. Judkins always wanted to be a litigation attorney. He considers the practice of law his purpose in life and he holds himself to a very high professional and ethical standard. Mr. Judki...


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