In today’s modern world relationship dynamics are becoming more complicated than ever before.  An increasing number of couples are deciding to forego traditional marriage in lieu of more casual arrangements, while an increasing number of single women are deciding to navigate the world of motherhood alone.

While there is no “one size fits all” approach, certain circumstances can introduce an additional layer of complexity, especially when children are involved and custody issues arise.

When children get added into the mix of the modern relationship, you may find yourself questioning your rights as a parent. Who does custody fall to in the case of an unmarried couple with children? What are your visitation rights as the biological father of a child whose mother has decided to raise the child solo?

Children are precious and it’s important to understand your rights and the laws regarding custody in order to navigate this complicated landscape without dragging your children through a messy legal battleground.

At Herbert and Lux Attorneys at Law, we can help you navigate the sometimes muddy waters of child custody issues between unmarried parents. For years we’ve dedicated our Nashville practice to helping educate and advocate for the rights of our clients.

Reach out to us today and find out why so many parents seek counsel from our firm when it comes to helping them understand and fight for their custodial rights.

Your Rights as an Unmarried Mother

Under Tennessee law, an unmarried mother automatically has custody of her child at birth. No legal action is required on her part as the child’s mother to assert her custodial rights. The child’s medical care, education, residence, and visitation rights with the father are the mother’s decision entirely unless ordered otherwise by a court. The mother is not required to list the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate, however, paternity may have to be proven when making a claim for child support.

Your Rights as an Unmarried Father

As an unmarried father, or putative father, those rights become a bit more complicated. Since the mother automatically has custody at birth, the father or putative father has no presumptive rights to the child. He does not have the authority to make decisions related to the child’s care or visitation. If the father executes a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, he will be deemed to be the legal father and this will allow the father’s name to be added to the child’s birth certificate. If either party has any doubts about who the father is, they should not execute a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and should seek DNA testing. Even if the father’s name appears on the birth certificate, he may still have to file a petition and seek a court order for parenting time if the parties are not able to agree on visitation or custody.  He may also be required to pay child support.

If the father’s name does not appear on the child’s birth certificate, or DNA testing needs to be compelled, the putative father should file a petition with the proper court to establish parentage. The Court can order DNA testing be performed and can establish biological and legal parentage.

Common Issues for Couples who Live Together but Remain Unmarried

A couple with children who live together but are not married can face many obstacles their married counterparts don’t face. Tasks such as choosing a last name for their children, proving paternity, parental rights and access in schools and medical facilities, claiming children as dependents on tax forms, or applying for government benefits may result in additional challenges that would not apply to a married couple.

Fighting for Custody in Nashville, TN

The fight for custody or visitation rights, especially in the case of a messy breakup, can be a long and challenging process that is especially difficult for children. Tennessee courts must make custody decisions based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child. The court will take an in-depth look at numerous factors affecting custody and the child’s best interests, including the relationship between the parent and child, the parent’s mental and physical health, financial stability, and any history of abuse or neglect. Having a seasoned attorney at your side can be a real asset when navigating a legal custody battle.

Choosing the Right Nashville Lawyer

When faced with a custody dispute that can’t be solved without the help of the legal system, It is often best to enlist the help of an experienced attorney in order to assure the process goes smoothly and results in the best possible outcome for your children. Custody battles can be difficult for the parents and the children, and a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the system can take a lot of the stress and unease out of the situation, helping the process go as quickly as possible in order to save your child from the stress and uncertainty that can result from these types of battles.

The attorneys at Herbert & Lux have experience navigating the troubled waters of child custody and can help you reach the best outcome for your family.