What Are a Father's Rights in Tennessee to a Child Born Out of Wedlock?

Father's Rights in Tennessee

Unfortunately, this issue comes up a lot in this day and age, and it’s surprising how few people know the answer.

So, a couple that is not married has a child. Then something happens and the mother is no longer allowing the father to see the child and he is all upset and worked up about this. What rights does the father have in Tennessee?

The answer is, none. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-2-303 states, “Absent an order of custody to the contrary, custody of a child born out of wedlock is with the mother.” What can the father do? He needs to go to juvenile court and file a petition for custody. Then the court will go about having a hearing or setting a mediation when the father can attempt to get some established custody/visitation rights.

A court order or mediated agreement is the only way that the father can get his visitation and custody rights protected. Otherwise, the father is completely at the mercy of the mother to allow him visitation with their child.

Tennessee Child Custody Laws: What You Need to Know

Whether you're married or not, it's necessary to put a child custody arrangement in place if you and your child's other parent decide to part ways. But how does a court determine what the arrangement will be?

There are actually several factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.

You may have heard that mothers typically get the vast majority of the time with children when there is a custody determination, and fathers usually get every other weekend. That's not the case anymore, and judges typically start with a 50/50 split unless there's a reason not to.

So what is the judge required to consider when making that determination?

Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-106 lists 15 factors that the judge is to weigh in making their decision as to custody. And only one of these factors is the child's preference. If a child is 12 years old or older, they will be able to say where they want to live, but it's not a guarantee. That's only one of the 15 factors. Some of the other factors are continuity in the children's lives, where have they lived previously, their relationship with siblings, and the parents' work schedule.

Click here to read each of the 15 factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.