Your rights as a father in the state of Tennessee are protected by numerous state and federal laws. These rights exist automatically when you become a father and can only be taken away from you in specific circumstances by a court. The laws that protect your rights can change, however, so always research current laws or get qualified legal advice if you have specific concerns.
A father's legal rights in Tennessee include two basic types--paternity and custody. Paternity is the legal right to determine who a child's legal father is, while custody is the right to raise a child. Child custody includes both legal custody, the right to make child rearing choices, and physical custody, the right to have the child live with you or visit the child if he does not live with you.
Fathers have few, if any, rights over their children before the child is actually born. However, a father gets numerous rights as soon as his child is born and retains them for the rest of his life unless a court specifically decides otherwise. For example, a father in Tennessee cannot stop his wife from getting an abortion, but once the child is born, the mother cannot give the child up for adoption without the father's consent.
Fathers in Tennessee, once they've established paternity, have a duty to care for their children. This includes providing child support to the mother of the child if you are not married or living together. However, this obligation is not exclusive to the father, and any father awarded primary custody of a child has the same right to receive child support from the mother.
Your rights as a father in Tennessee can be affected by your behavior. For example, while you have the presumed right to custody over your children, anything you do that negatively impacts your child's health and well-being can result in your custody rights being limited. If you have a history of child abuse and domestic violence, the court has the power to grant the mother sole custody rights, order supervised visitations or limit your custody rights as much as it deems necessary.
If you have specific questions about your rights as a father in Tennessee, you should contact an experienced family law attorney or legal aid organization for legal advise. Not only can the law change, but your rights depend on your specific situation, and only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice.