Living Together in Tennessee
Tennessee does not have common law marriage. Tennessee courts do, however, recognize common law marriages created in other states when the couple still lives together in Tennessee. In some cases, a couple will not be allowed to deny a marriage that existed under common law in a different state where the rights of someone else would be compromised if the existence of the "marriage" were denied.
Since Tennessee does not have common law marriage, Tennessee divorce laws do not specifically apply to "living together" arrangements. Issues such as child custody, co-parenting time, property rights, responsibility for debts and inheritance rights are not subject to divorce law. Before you decide to live with someone without marriage, you should consider carefully the risks and limitations of that arrangement.
Problems often arise over property and/or debts that a couple has acquired during their relationship when they separate or when one person dies. There is uncertainty as to how the Tennessee courts will treat such property and/or debts or what rules will be applied to divide the property and fix the responsibility for debts.
If you are concerned about what might happen to property you own before you enter into a relationship, or what might happen to the property you acquire during the relationship, you and your partner should make a written agreement about how you will divide the property and debts. Such a written agreement might help you avoid going to court or might help the court decide how to divide the property and debts. You should understand, though, that the court may not be required to follow your written agreement.
If you and your partner have a child together, you may seek custody and child support for that child through the court. There is no automatic right to child support, you must first establish legal paternity through court. Either parent may file to establish the legal relationship between the child and the father. The court will then decide who will be the Primary Residential Parent (custodian), who will have decision-making authority for the child, and a schedule for co parenting time (visitation). If you are receiving state benefits on behalf of the child, the state Child Support Services may file (without your permission ) to establish paternity and child support or to recoup benefits paid by the State from the payor parent.
Signing a birth certificate does not automatically "legitimize" your child. A court hearing may be required before your child has full legal rights.