If you and your child’s mother married to each other at the time your child was born, your status as the mother’s husband automatically established your paternity; i.e., legal fatherhood.
As the child’s legal father, your name went on his or her original birth certificate as the father, and you gained not only the right to participate in your child’s life, but also to do the following:
- Seek custody of or visitation with him or her in the event of your future divorce.
- Access his or her medical records.
- Access his or her school records.
- Add your child to your health insurance plan and your life insurance policy or policies.
- Grant your son or daughter your Social Security, military and/or veterans benefits upon your death.
Tennessee law also presumes your paternity if you married your child’s mother at the time of his or her conception or any time within 300 days of his or her birth. Furthermore, Tennessee law presumes your paternity if you and your child’s mother divorced at the time of his or her birth, but your divorce became final sometime during the 300 days preceding his or her birth.
Voluntary paternity options
If you and your child’s mother never married each other, then you must proactively establish your paternity. The easiest way to do this is for you and the child’s mother to sign a Voluntary Acknowledge of Paternity. This is a legal document that each of you must sign in front of a notary public. If you wish to sign it at the time of your child’s birth, the hospital can provide both the form and the notary.
If you wish to establish paternity later, you can do so at any time before your child’s 21st birthday. But if you wish to establish paternity via the VAoP process, you must do so before your child becomes 19. You can obtain the VAoP form from one of the following agencies:
- Local Health Department
•Local Child Support Office
•Tennessee Office of Vital Records
You will need to provide your Social Security number and a valid state picture I.D., such as your driver’s license. The office will provide the notary and file your VAoP with the proper state authority.