Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC
Potential clients can contact us at: 865.223.5586 Existing clients can contact us at: 865.546.7770
Complex problems deserve personalized attention

Trusted Paternity Law Firm in TN Helps Determine Parentage

Paternity presumptions

It is important to be represented by an experienced child custody lawyer in Knoxville when dealing with parentage disputes.

When parents are not married to each other, unless a court order is entered to the contrary, the custody of the child born out of wedlock is with the mother until a Permanent Parenting Plan is established.

When the parents are not married to each other, establishing the legal rights of the father as a parent can be accomplished by an action to establish parentage or legitimize the child. According to the child custody laws in Knoxville, a man is presumed to be the father if:

  • He and the child’s mother are married
  • He and the mother have been married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce
  • He and the mother attempted to marry, either before or after the birth of the child, even if the marriage is or could be declared illegal, void, or voidable
  • He has acknowledged paternity in a writing filed with the Putative Father Registry
  • He has consented in writing to be named the child’s father on the birth certificate
  • He is obligated to support the child under written bond, or by court order
  • If the man receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child while the child is under the age of majority
  • Genetic tests show a probability of ninety-five percent or greater that he is the father

The presumptions are, of course, only presumptions. They may be overcome with appropriate proof and circumstances

Establishing parentage — who may file?

  • The court may enter an Order of Parentage upon the agreement of the mother and the father without genetic testing.
  • child over the age of majority (or a younger child through a guardian) may file to establish parentage.
  • The child’s mother (or the mother’s guardian if the mother is a minor) may file.
  • The man claiming to be the child’s father (or if he is a minor his guardian) may file.
  • The Department of Human Services (or its contractor) may file.
  • The petition may name one man or several men as potential fathers.

Statute of Limitations

The action to establish child custody in Knoxville may be instituted before or after the birth of the child up until three years beyond the child’s age of majority.


  • The trial is without a jury and must be expedited on the court’s civil docket.
  • The mother may introduce bills for her care during pregnancy, childbirth and genetic testing without requiring a witness to authenticate the bills.

The court may:

  • Determine the surname the child is to use and change the birth certificate to reflect the paternity
  • Determine the custody of the child, co-parenting time, and child support
  • Order a retroactive support award back to the time of the pregnancy
  • Order either of the parties, or both, to share funeral expenses if the child is deceased
  • Order one party to pay the other’s lawyers costs and fees
  • Enter an Order of Protection, if necessary


  • If a paternity order is entered and the relationship of father and child legally established, the child is entitled to inherit from the father as if the child had been born in wedlock.
  • Tennessee law bars discrimination against children who are born out of wedlock and treats violation of that law as a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Tennessee law mandates that "no exclusive references shall be made to illegitimacy in any legal proceeding, record, certificates, or other papers, except for the part when Human Services and Health may keep records of out-of-wedlock births."
  • The State of Tennessee may recover from the father its payments made to support the mother and child during the periods of time the father failed to pay child support.
  • Some or all payments made voluntarily (without a child support order) but father get a credit against any obligation later imposed by the court.

Contact an experienced paternity lawyer in Knoxville, TN

The lawyers at Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC have served the residents of Knoxville and the surrounding areas since 1993. Our firm is located in Historic Downtown Knoxville, near Market Square and within walking distance of the state and federal courthouses. We have fixed hourly rates and return phone calls within 24 hours, to the best of our ability. For more information, contact us online or call 865.223.5586.

Sobieski, Messer & Associates, PLLC
612 Gay Street, 5th Floor
Knoxville, Tennessee, 37902-1603 USA