Asked in Family Law, Child Custody and Child Support for Tennessee

Q: Would I have to allow my son's father unsupervised visitation if we were to split up? We are Not married

We are Not married and do not live together. Our son will be 2 in August and I am pregnant with our second. I would not mind meeting with him in a public place or going to his home with him and being present while he visits with our son. I just have a lot of concerns about allowing our son to go stay with him alone even if it's only for a few hours. He has had problems with alcohol and can be violent when drunk. He has referred to our son calling him inappropriate terms, disciplines him in ways that are inappropriate for his age, etc. Also, if he were to have supervised visitation, does that mean it can be just anyone with them while they visit or could it be me or someone from the state or something? I have no experience with any of this and I am concerned for my son if he were to have to visit his father without me present.

1 Lawyer Answer
Paul E. Tennison
Paul E. Tennison
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Brentwood, TN
  • Licensed in Tennessee

A: The short answer is without a court order, you do not have to allow the father to spend any time with your children.

Tennessee is what is commonly referred to as a “Mother’s state”. This simply means that when children are born out of wedlock, the father has no rights to parent the child. If the parents are not married at the time of the birth, legal actions of some sort must be taken to establish paternity, or the child has no legal father. Paternity may be established through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity signed in front of a notary or through a Court Order. If the Father decides he wants parenting time, he would have to file a Petition to Establish Paternity in court. Of course you could allow him visitation without going to the court, you simply are not legally required to under these circumstances.

Child support is a separate issue that you may want to consider. If he is proven to be the father, TN law would require him to pay child support. You could consider speaking with a family law attorney about this issue, or your local child support enforcement office.

If the father gets violent around you or the children, I encourage you to consider seeking an Order of Protection against him to protect yourself and your children. There are organizations that assist victims of domestic violence in situations like this you should reach out to if necessary. See

Good luck!

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