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Father’s Rights When a Man Is Not Married to His Child’s Mother


When an unmarried mother gives birth to a baby in Tennessee, the documented paternity of the newborn’s father is necessary for a man to exercise his legal rights regarding the child. As noted by WSMV News4 Nashville, an unwed father does not have parental privileges until after a baby is born. Once the baby is born, however, a male listed on the newborn’s birth certificate may establish himself legally as the father even if he is not married to the baby’s mother. 

For a birth certificate to list an unmarried man as the baby’s father, however, Tennessee requires either a voluntary acknowledgment or a test confirming biological paternity. As noted on the Department of Human Services’ website, an unwed woman may place the biological father’s name on the birth certificate under the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Program. Both individuals must agree to name the man as the father. If either the unwed male or female does not agree, a DNA test may establish paternity. 

Involuntary establishment 

Petitioning the county court for paternity allows a DNA test to establish a man as a baby’s father. The court issues an order of parentage if the DNA test results match. Once the testing establishes paternity, a man may then legally proceed to seek joint custody or visitation rights. A mother may also request child support from the baby’s legal father. 

A man not listed as the father on a baby’s birth certificate may not request custody, visit or participate in the child’s life. If he believes he is the biological father, a paternity test may prove this fact.