Paternity Rights in Tennessee

Maryville Paternity Lawyers

Helping clients establish or contest paternity in Blount County & East Tennessee

Parents dedicate themselves to the health and happiness of their children. However, when issues and questions about paternity surface, it’s important as a parent you do the right thing for your child. Paternity matters can become extremely complicated, whether you want to establish it or contest it. Especially when parents were only in a brief relationship, or never married, you may run into legal obstacles.

The Maryville family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. have over four decades of experience representing parents in all aspects of paternity, working in the best interests of your children, who are always our highest priority. We handle your case with the compassion and sensitivity it deserves. Talk to us today.


Ravyn Kennedy
"Kevin is an amazing lawyer that fought for my custody and got me a quick and easy divorce! Very compassionate and determined."

Ravyn Kennedy

Danielle Kennedy
"Kevin Shepherd helped my family with a heartwrenching custody case. He was compassionate and professional. We could not have asked for a better attorney."

Danielle Kennedy

Caleb Gandy
"Kevin responded to my urgent email even while he was on Christmas leave. He got me full legal and physical custody of my kids! He’s very professional and a killer lawyer! I recommend him to everyone I know! Huge props to Erica his legal assistant too! They are all fantastic!"

Caleb Gandy

Megan Sparkes
"I Kevin and his team are very driven, compassionate, and are willing to do what it takes to win even when things in your case aren't cut-and-dry. Both Kevin and Maxey are very knowledgeable of family law and highly responsive. It's really hard to find a lawyer who actually has a heart for your situation and will work with you on costs, but they do. Kevin and his team are absolutely phenomenal and I cannot recommend them enough. I plan to re-hire if I should ever need legal services in the future."

Megan Sparkes

Jorga Prater
"We have hired Maxey to represent use for a very difficult family matter that has caused use quite a lot of emotional stress. The firm is so helpful; very professional, and also answer questions in ways we understand them. We have also met with Kevin and he is as kind as Maxey is and they really seem to know there stuff . They genuinely care about use and that’s means a lot."

Jorga Prater

Unmarried fathers rights Tennessee

Do unmarried fathers have rights in Tennessee?

If parents are unmarried at the time of a child’s birth, mothers automatically gain full child custody until the father establishes his paternity. However, once a father does establish paternity, he has the same rights and responsibilities as any other parent. Those rights and responsibilities also include child support. Additionally, if a father wants to be involved in their child’s life, he can petition the court for a custody and visitation agreement that puts the child’s best interests first.

If both parents can work out an agreement on their own, they won’t have to go to court (apart from filing the agreement with the court to make it legally binding). If you and your co-parent cannot come to agreement, however, you may need to move to litigation. The Maryville paternity lawyers at Shepherd & Long can guide you through this process.

How do you establish paternity?

If parents are married, the husband is automatically presumed to be the father. Tennessee law refers to this as presumption of parentage. However, if the parents are not married and the husband wants to be acknowledged as the father, he must take steps to establish his paternity. Typically, this happens in one of two ways – voluntarily or involuntarily.

If a father voluntarily wants to acknowledge his paternity, he can sign a government document called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. If he finds out about his paternity after the birth of the child, he can also have a DNA test to confirm before signing any documents. If the father or mother will not acknowledge paternity, either parent has the right to file a Petition to Establish Parentage, which is the involuntary route.

Why establish paternity?

Establishing paternity isn’t about how you might feel about the other parent – it’s about the best interests of your child. Children can gain an understanding about their family and culture, as well as any medical issues they should know about. They may get better health insurance through their father, as well as necessary child support. And, they can gain an entirely new family support system.

Why should a father establish paternity in Tennessee?

If you are a father who intends to be involved in their child’s life, you must establish paternity. Establishing paternity gives you the legal right to pursue custody or visitation rights. The right to custody also gives you the opportunity to participate in your child’s upbringing and have a say in their medical, educational, and religious decisions.

Why should a mother establish paternity in Tennessee?

If you are a mother who needs support and rights for their child, you may need to establish paternity first. You’ll need proof of paternity for things like child support, health insurance, or even state support benefits in some cases.

How do I put a father’s name on the birth certificate?

The state of Tennessee offers several methods to add a father’s name to a birth certificate. If the parents have married since the birth of the child, the state will issue a new certificate under the following conditions:

  • No father is listed on the birth certificate
  • The mother was not married to someone else at the child’s birth, or within 300 days of the child’s birth
  • Both the mother and father wish to have the father’s name on the birth certificate
  • Both parents have completed, notarized, and paid the fee forApplication for New Certificate of Birth by Subsequent Marriage of Parents

If the parents are unmarried but still want the father on the birth certificate after the child’s birth, the father can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. The state will issue a new birth certificate under the same conditions as above.

Our Maryville family law attorneys can work with you to ensure all documents are properly completed, notarized, and filed with the courts to ensure the process goes smoothly and efficiently.

How long does a father have to establish paternity in Tennessee?

According to state law, a father can file an action to establish parentage “before or after the birth of the child until three (3) years after the age of majority.” As the age of majority in Tennessee is 18 years old, a father can petition to establish paternity up until the child is 21 years old.

What is paternity fraud?

Paternity fraud is rare, but happens on occasion. If a person is named as the father of a child, but he denies it, most attorneys recommend DNA testing. Mothers may mistakenly name a man as a father for many reasons, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, for reasons no one may understand. Whatever the reason, it is fraud. The courts look at paternity fraud as follows:

  • Making a false statement (i.e., on the birth certificate)
  • Knowing that statement was false
  • Making the statement to deceive
  • That statement influenced the victim’s decision

You’re taking on a huge, lifetime responsibility when you sign a child’s birth certificate. It means legal and financial obligations, and their general well-being. If it turns out it’s not your child, your world can turn upside-down. Shepherd & Long’s Maryville attorneys can help you work through the next steps.

Experienced Maryville TN paternity attorneys

Whether you need to establish or contest paternity, the reliable lawyers at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can help. Let us guide you through the proper channels and advocate for what’s best for both you and your child. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.