If a child is born to an unmarried couple in Tennessee, the father is not assumed to be a legal parent. Therefore, the father generally needs to sign an affidavit claiming responsibility for the child. Doing so gives both the mother and father the same legal rights and responsibilities to the child. The parents then have the freedom to give the child whatever name that they deem to be appropriate.
This means that the child could have its mother’s last name, the father’s last name or both. Having the parent’s name on the child’s birth certificate is important because it may allow the child to qualify for government benefits. It is important to note that only one parent can take the tax exemption based on having a minor dependent each year. However, either parent can take it as long as he or she supports the child.
In the event that unmarried parents end their relationship, either parent may pursue custody of the child. If only one parent is granted custody, that person cannot refuse visitation by the other legal or biological parent. However, if a partner was not the legal or biological parent of the child, that person may not have legal rights to the child unless a separate agreement is reached.
Parents who are not married when a child is born have many options to obtain legal rights to that child. For instance, both parents may voluntarily acknowledge paternity. It may also be possible to take a paternity test to determine who a child’s father is. Parents who are having trouble determining paternity or are otherwise engaged in a child custody dispute might benefit from speaking with an attorney.