Tennessee Paternity Law
This page about Tennessee paternity laws is provided as general information only. Journey Genetic Testing does not provide legal advice or representation. We encourage you to research your state laws for the most current information, or contact a family law attorney.
Tennessee Paternity Law: 36-2-304 & 24-7-113
36-2-304. Presumption of parentage.
(a) A man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child if:
(1) The man and the child’s mother are married or have been married to each other and the child is born during the marriage or within three hundred (300) days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
(2) Before the child’s birth, the man and the mother have attempted to marry each other in compliance with the law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared illegal, void and voidable;
(3) After the child’s birth, the man and the mother have married or attempted to marry each other in compliance with the law although such marriage is or could be declared illegal, void, or voidable; and:
(A) The man has acknowledged his paternity of the child in a writing filed under the putative father registry established by the department of children services, pursuant to § 36-2-318; or
(B) The man has consented in writing to be named the child’s father on the birth certificate; or
(C) The man is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or by court order;
(4) While the child is under the age of majority, the man receives the child into the man’s home and openly holds the child out as the man’s natural child; or
(5) Genetic tests have been administered as provided in § 24-7-112, an exclusion has not occurred, and the test results show a statistical probability of parentage of ninety-five percent (95%) or greater.
(b) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (b)(2), a presumption under subsection (a) may be rebutted in an appropriate action.
(2) (A) If the mother was legally married and living with her husband at the time of conception and has remained together with that husband through the date a petition to establish parentage is filed and both the mother and the mother’s husband file a sworn answer stating that the husband is the father of the child, any action seeking to establish parentage must be brought within twelve (12) months of the birth of the child. In the event that an action is dismissed based upon the filing of such a sworn answer, the husband and wife who filed such sworn answer shall be estopped to deny paternity in any future action.
(B) A petition to establish parentage may be brought under this part if a dismissal of a petition under the prior legitimization statutes was based upon the mother’s marriage to another man at the time of conception or upon the petitioner’s lack of standing. In such cases, the requirements of subdivision (b)(2)(A) requiring a petition to be filed within twelve (12) months of the birth of the child shall not apply. It is the intent of the general assembly that putative fathers who filed a cause of action under this chapter prior to the July 1, 1997, effective date of Acts 1997, ch. 477, and whose action was so dismissed, shall have an opportunity to prosecute a single cause of action under this part. Thus, the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel shall not bar such new or pending action, nor shall any statute of limitation that may have run bar such new or pending action. It is the clear and unequivocal intent of the general assembly that this provision shall be applied retroactively to such petitions to establish parentage. No such retroactive application shall, however, abrogate the provisions of § 36-1-122.
(3) The standard of proof in an action to rebut paternity shall be by preponderance of the evidence.
(4) In any case, except terminations of parental rights or adoptions under title 36 or title 37, in which the paternity of a child is at issue and an agreed order or divorce decree has been entered finding that an individual is not the parent of the child, the finding shall not be entitled to preclusive effect unless the finding was based upon scientific tests to determine parentage that excluded the individual from parentage of the child in question.
(c) All prior presumptions of parentage established by the previous paternity and legitimation statutes and cases are abolished.
[Acts 1997, ch. 477, § 1; 1998, ch. 1098, § 8; 1999, ch. 339, § 1; 2000, ch. 922, § 4.]
24-7-113. Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
(a) A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity which is completed under the provisions of § 68-3-203(g), § 68-3-302, or § 68-3-305(b) or under similar provisions of another state or government shall constitute a legal finding of paternity on the individual named as the father of the child in the acknowledgment, subject to rescission as provided in subsection (c). The acknowledgment, unless rescinded pursuant to subsection (c), shall be conclusive of that father’s paternity without further order of the court.
(b) (1) A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity which is completed under the provisions of § 68-3-203(g), § 68-3-302, or § 68-3-305(b), or under similar provisions of another state or government, when certified by the state registrar or other governmental entity maintaining the record of the acknowledgment, or the copy of the voluntary acknowledgment completed pursuant to § 68-3-302(d), shall be a basis for establishing a support order without requiring any further proceedings to establish paternity.
(2) An acknowledgment of paternity executed as described in subdivision (b)(1) shall be entitled to full faith and credit in any judicial or administrative proceeding in this state.
(3) No judicial or administrative proceedings are required, nor shall any such proceedings be permitted, to ratify an unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity in order to create the conclusive status of the acknowledgment of paternity.
(c) A signatory to a voluntary acknowledgment shall be permitted to rescind the voluntary acknowledgment at the earlier of:
(1) The completion and submission of a sworn statement refuting the named father on a form provided by the state registrar. This form must be filed in the office of vital records of the department of health, together with the fee required by the registrar within sixty (60) days of the date of completion of the acknowledgment; or
(2) Within the sixty-day period following completion of the acknowledgment, at any judicial or administrative proceeding during that period at which the signatory is a party and which proceeding relates to the child, by completion of the form described in subdivision (c)(1) or by the entry of an order by the administrative or judicial tribunal which directs the rescission of such acknowledgment. The registrar may impose a fee for the filing of the rescission of voluntary acknowledgment in subdivision (c)(1) and the registrar shall send a copy of the rescinded acknowledgment to the other signatory of the original acknowledgment. If an individual seeking to rescind an acknowledgment completes an affidavit of indigency which accompanies the rescission form, the fee shall be waived. Any fee for filing a rescission of a voluntary acknowledgment based upon fraud shall be assessed by the court against the person found to be the perpetrator of the fraud.
(d) If, at any time during the hearing described in subdivision (c)(2), the court, the referee, or the hearing officer has reasonable cause to believe that a signatory of the acknowledgment is or was unable to understand the effects of executing such acknowledgment, the court, the referee or hearing officer shall explain orally to the individual the effects of the execution of the acknowledgment, and the right to rescind the voluntary acknowledgment pursuant to subsection (c), and the right to parentage tests to determine paternity pursuant to the provisions of § 24-7-112 in any proceeding relative to the issue of paternity of the child.
(e) (1) If the voluntary acknowledgment has not been rescinded pursuant to subsection (c), the acknowledgment may only be challenged on the basis of fraud, whether extrinsic or intrinsic, duress, or material mistake of fact.
(2) The challenger must institute the proceeding upon notice to the other signatory and other necessary parties including the Title IV-D agency within five (5) years of the execution of the acknowledgment, and if the court finds based upon the evidence presented at the hearing that there is substantial likelihood that fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact existed in the execution of the acknowledgment of paternity, then, and only then, the court shall order parentage tests. Such action shall not be barred by the five-year statute of limitations where fraud in the procurement of the acknowledgment by the mother of the child is alleged and where the requested relief will not affect the interests of the child, the state, or any Title IV-D agency. Nothing herein shall preclude the challenger from presenting any other form of evidence as a substitute for the parentage tests if it is not possible to conduct such tests.
(3) The test results certified under oath by an authorized representative of an accredited laboratory shall be filed with the court and shall be admissible on the issue of paternity pursuant to § 24-7-112(b). If the acknowledged father is found to be excluded by the tests, an action seeking support shall be dismissed or the acknowledgment of paternity shall be rescinded, as appropriate. If the test results show a statistical probability of ninety-five percent (95%) or greater, a rebuttable presumption of paternity shall be established and the issue of paternity shall be tried before the court without a jury. If the test results show a probability of paternity of ninety-nine percent (99%) or greater, the acknowledgment of paternity will become conclusive and no further action shall be necessary to establish paternity unless a motion asserting the defenses of § 24-7-112(b)(2)(C) is successfully brought.
(4) The burden of proof in any such proceeding shall be upon the challenger.
(5) During the pendency of the hearing under this subsection and any appeal from such hearing, the legal responsibilities of the signatory, including any child support obligations, may not be suspended, except for good cause shown.
(f) The state of Tennessee, its officers, employees, agents or contractors, or any Title IV-D child support enforcement agency shall not be liable in any case to compensate any person for repayment of child support paid or for any other costs as a result of the rescission of any voluntary acknowledgment or the rescission of any orders of legitimation, paternity, or support entered under this section.
(g) (1) The rescission of an acknowledgment of paternity or entry of any order rescinding any acknowledgment of paternity pursuant to subsection (c) shall not preclude the initiation of a paternity action against the signatory who is the alleged putative father, or by a putative father against a mother to establish his paternity, nor shall it preclude the initiation of a paternity action against another putative father.
(2) If, however, the voluntary acknowledgment is rescinded by order of the court based upon tests conducted pursuant to subsection (e) which excluded a person as parent, no further action may be initiated against such excluded person.
(h) (1) The original of the form rescinding the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or a certified copy of any order rescinding a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or a prior order of legitimation or paternity shall be sent by the person rescinding it or, as the case may be, by the clerk to the state registrar at the office of vital records of the department of health.
(2) Upon receipt of the form rescinding the acknowledgment which was executed and filed with the registrar within the sixty-day period or upon receipt of the order which shows on its face that the voluntary acknowledgment has been rescinded at the hearing which is held no later than the sixtieth day following the completion of the voluntary acknowledgment, or upon receipt of a certified court order with a finding shown clearly in the court order that the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity was rescinded due to fraud, either intrinsic or extrinsic, duress or material mistake of fact, the registrar shall make the appropriate amendments to the birth certificate of the child who was the subject of the order.
[Acts 1994, ch. 988, § 1; 1997, ch. 551, § 35; 1998, ch. 1098, §§ 1, 2; T.C.A., § 24-7-118.]
Required Probability of Paternity for Tennessee Courts: 99%
Required Paternity Index: None
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