What Are a Father's Parental Rights in Tennessee?
01 June 2022IN: Family Law
When a couple has decided to split up, one of the most important decisions they face is the health and welfare of their children. In a divorce situation, the court system in Tennessee always prioritizes the best interests of the children when considering custody and visitation rights. It encourages both parents to have important decision-making and financial rights and responsibilities toward their children.
Unfortunately, when couples can’t cooperate, disputes arise and child custody is one of the most common of these disputes. We no longer are a society that gives the mother primary custody consideration in these matters, and fathers now have the very same legal rights as the mother when it comes to matters of child custody. When custody does become a bit muddier, however, is when the parents weren’t married when the child was born.
What Factors Does the Court Consider When Awarding Custody?
When parents can’t come to a cooperative resolution regarding custody and parenting time issues, the court will often need to intervene to determine what is best for the child. If a divorce has gone to litigation, the parents will then need to comply with the court’s decision.
The court will consider many factors when awarding custody, including
- Each party’s ability to provide basic food, clothing, medical care, education and other essential care for the child
- Both parents’ caregiver history with the child
- Both parents’ emotional connection with the child
- Each party’s consistency and stable continuity in the child’s life
- Each party’s ability to represent a stable family environment
- Both parents’ mental and physical health
- Any evidence of emotional or physical abuse
- Other parties who may share each parent’s home and their relationship with the child
- The willingness of each parent to allow a continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent.
While financial considerations are not supposed to play a primary role in custody determination, there may be incidents where income and financial resources can become a consideration in determining safety and security in the child’s life. Even in those custody matters where the mother is named the primary custodial parent, the court will make every effort to ensure that both parents are involved in their child’s life.
Consequently, a father’s custody rights will be equally considered with the mother’s under the law in Tennessee. Depending on the unique circumstances surrounding each situation, the court will award primary custody or alternate custody and will devise a parenting schedule with which both parties will be required to comply.
When the Parents Aren’t Married in Tennessee
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44 percent of all children in Tennessee are born to parents who are not married. Consequently, there are those custody disputes that arise outside of a divorce scenario when a father seeks legal custody rights to his children. In this case, in the state of Tennessee, custody is automatically given to the birth mother until a father obtains a court order stating otherwise.
The first step for an unmarried father to gain custody of his child is by establishing that he is the biological father. While a couple can execute a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and place the father on the child’s birth certificate, this does not grant custody or visitation to the father. The father will still need a court order establishing paternity and granting custody/visitation. If there is a dispute between parents as to the parentage of the child, the court may order genetic testing to prove paternity. Once paternity has been established, the court will then go on to make other determinations about the parental rights and obligations of the father using much the same criteria as that used to establish custody in a divorce case.
Getting the Assistance of a Tennessee Child Custody Attorney
If you are a father who is concerned about your parental rights in Tennessee, whether in a divorce dispute or a paternity dispute, you should get the guidance of a Tennessee child custody lawyer who has broad experience in parental rights and custody. At The Law Office of David L. Scott, we have over 25 years of experience representing the parental rights of men in Murfreesboro and throughout Tennessee. Call us at (615) 896-7656 or contact us through our online contact form to schedule a consultation to discuss your parental rights.