A common point of discussion and debate is the rights of unmarried fathers to obtain child custody and visitation. Every state, including Tennessee, has its own definition of "father" and "parent" and these definitions play a significant role in the court's decision regarding child custody and visitation. Thankfully, fathers' rights have evolved and current Tennessee law allows an unmarried father to claim custody of his child.
The first step an unmarried father must take to obtain child custody is to establish paternity. This can either be done by a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the time of the child's birth or at a later date. However, if paternity is disputed either by the father or mother, the child's paternity is determined by a court-order DNA test. After paternity establishment, the father can file a petition to request child custody and visitation rights.