In Tennessee, one out every three children are born to unwed parents. There are several ways to establish paternity of a child. First, the mother and father can both sign a form called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Second, a paternity action can be filed in court. The voluntary acknowledgment of paternity involves no court action and is usually accomplished in the hospital just after the birth of the child. There is no fee for submitting the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, provided the form is filled out, signed and filed with the proper state agency prior to the child’s first birthday. The form can be submitted after the child’s first birthday through the date the child turns nineteen, but there is a small fee involved.
The form requires the acknowledgment of both the mother and the father that the father is the natural father of the child. Certain information such as the social security numbers, ages and addresses of both parents must be provided on the form, and the form must be signed before a notary public. The form allows the child to carry the last name of the father if both parents can agree. Otherwise, the child will carry the last name of the mother.
If one or both of the parents are under eighteen years of age, the form must also be signed by the parent or legal guardian of the new parent. If the mother is married to someone else at the time of conception, while she is pregnant, or at the time she gives birth, the form cannot be used and the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father. In that case, the husband will be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.