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Single Tennessee mother/sole custody by default?

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  • Single Tennessee mother/sole custody by default?

    I never gave much thought to custody issues prior to going to court a couple years back to establish child support with my nearly 11 year old daughter's father (the child support hearing took place in his place of residence - Virginia - since we met and conceived my daughter in SC, and we both live in different places now). During the support hearing, he stated that his lawyer informed him that I do not actually have legal custody of my daughter, since I have never filed for custody. My assumption was: since I am the only person listed on her birth certificate and have been her only caretaker, I am her sole guardian with sole custody.

    It was a one-night stand, he took off deal that left me with an unplanned pregnancy, and it took my local child support enforcement office over 8 years to locate him so we could file for support (I moved from SC back to TN - where I was from - a week after she was born). He wasn't around at the time of her birth to be listed on the BC, and never attempted to contact me in the years following. I believe he only brought up the custody issue in court to see if he could "get custody of the child" (that's right, couldn't even bring himself to say her name) in effort to avoid the monthly child support payments.

    Is there any merit to his outlandish statement about my needing to legally establish custody/guardianship? He even made a statement about being advised by his attorney that he could "drive to Tennessee and pick up the child" if he wanted and would be within his rights. To my knowledge, in the two years following the child support hearing, he has neither filed for visitation, nor for an amendment/change to her birth certificate, if that is relevant.

    Thx.

  • #2
    Child Support

    I assume that a DNA test was done to prove that he is the father and that is why he pays child support?

    If he was proven as the father by DNA and there are no custody papers involved, then "most likely" you both have equal rights to her. The rest of his statements wouldn't matter. He probably said them to frighten you, taking the child would not stop him from paying child support and he wouldn't be able to keep the child from you either.

    If any of this is an issue to you, then file for sole custody and very limited visitation for him.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes, he was proven her father by DNA test prior to the child support hearing, and no, no custody matters have been brought before any courts (he was advised by the child support court/enforcement agency that he would have to go through the county court where my daughter and I reside).

      So I DO need to file for custody? Wow. Surprising.
      Last edited by Stoneygirl76; 10-17-2006, 08:01 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Cs

        Once you had him proven as the father, you gave him all the rights as one in addition to the responsibility to pay child support.

        Comment


        • #5
          That's confusing to me, because TN law is such that even if the father is established by paternity and a support order in place, the non-custodial parent has no custodial/visitation rights until they file for and are granted them in court. I know this because I have a second child who's hearings have all taken place in TN.

          Any other opinions on this?

          Comment


          • #6
            That's New

            Actually, this is quite new, 1997, it was not like that before then. When was your child born?

            Absent an order of custody to the contrary, custody of a child born out of wedlock is with the mother.
            [Acts 1997, ch. 477, 1.]

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by demartian View Post
              Actually, this is quite new, 1997, it was not like that before then. When was your child born?

              Absent an order of custody to the contrary, custody of a child born out of wedlock is with the mother.
              [Acts 1997, ch. 477, 1.]

              We went to court in 2004 - my dealings with TN courts were in 99.

              But now you're confusing me, because what you just cited is what I am expressing as my understanding - that without a court order to the contrary, only I have custodial rights, and that he has no visitation or custodial rights. Is this correct?

              Comment


              • #8
                No Mention

                There is no real mention of the visitation issue, but there are these requirements just for his asking:



                36-6-110. Rights of non-custodial parents.

                (a) Except when the juvenile court or other appropriate court finds it not to be in the best interests of the affected child, upon petition by a non-custodial, biological parent for whom parental rights have not been terminated, the court shall grant the following parental rights:

                (1) The right to unimpeded telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and for reasonable durations;

                (2) The right to send mail to the child, that the custodial parent or guardian shall not open or censor;

                (3) The right to receive notice and relevant information as soon as practicable but within twenty-four (24) hours of any event of hospitalization, major illness or death of the child;

                (4) The right to receive directly from the child's school copies of the child's report cards, attendance records, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other records customarily made available to parents, upon written request that includes a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplication;

                (5) The right to receive copies of the child's medical records directly from the child's doctor or other health care provider, upon written request that contains a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplication; and

                (6) The right to be free of unwarranted derogatory remarks about the non-custodial, biological parent, or such parent's family, made by the custodial parent or guardian to or in the presence of the child.

                (b) Any of the foregoing rights may be denied in whole or in part by the court upon a showing that such denial is in the best interests of the child.

                [Acts 1998, ch. 1087, 1.]

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sorry

                  Originally posted by Stoneygirl76 View Post
                  We went to court in 2004 - my dealings with TN courts were in 99.

                  But now you're confusing me, because what you just cited is what I am expressing as my understanding - that without a court order to the contrary, only I have custodial rights, and that he has no visitation or custodial rights. Is this correct?
                  You mentioned your daughter was 11, was she born in 1995? That would put her before the 1997/1998 changes to custody law here. Although, you went in 99' which is confusing because around that time, they also passed that you have a 3 year limitation to establish paternity.

                  Did you go by TN law in 99'?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The court proceedings I had in 99 in TN (during which I was informed about visitation having to be filed for on the part of the non-custodial parent) was on behalf of my son. I didn't go to court regarding my daughter until 2004 (in VA), because the father was 'unable to be located' until that time. Never was a time limitation on establishing paternity mentioned to me.

                    Different cases, different venues, different fathers.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Va

                      That all probably went by Virginia law then. I only know the TN, NY versions.

                      You were asking if he could "get custody", which he could try to, although at best he would get visitation.

                      Plus you are talking about things that could possibly go by different law versions because of the years involved.

                      If he hasn't contacted you for the 2 years after that, why are you worried now?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Because as a mother, worst case scenarios often run through my mind, and I can't forget his comment about being within his rights to come and take my daughter.

                        IF such a thing ever DID happen I want to be prepared to quickly and expediently get my daughter back home, that's all.

                        Thanks for your replies.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Quick way

                          If he ever tried, he wouldn't be able to take her.... why? Because when you called the police, they would ask to see that she is his daughter and he would have neither a birth certificate or a custody paper proving as such. A court hearing would occur and only at that time would you find out if he had the right to do so and from there, custody papers would come into play.

                          Basically, he was trying to scare you into not asking for Child Support by reminding you that he has rights to your daughter now, which he does, however, as I stated before, he can't just take her away from you.

                          He (in ALL states) could ask for visitation at any time and if he has never harmed you or anyone else that you know of, he would win.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't have issues with him filing for visitation (in fact, I would welcome it for my daughter's sake). Like a worried mother, I simply fret over not actually having a document which states I have sole custody in the event something crazy happened - a 'what if' thing. And since I'm not financially in a position to hire an attorney...just thought I'd pose the query here.

                            Thanks again.

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