“Luke, I Am Your Father!”
The famous, misquoted dialogue in Star Wars Episode 5 where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s Father would not be enough under Tennessee Law for Darth Vader to have any rights to parent Luke.1 Perhaps this is another example where the law is a bit more complicated than the movies. As an attorney, I have answered many questions about the rights of parents and children under Tennessee law. This article is intended to provide an overview of the default rules that govern the rights of parents under Tennessee law. It also addresses how mothers and fathers can petition to establish paternity in the Tennessee court system.
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.2 If the parents are married, the husband is considered the father of children born during the marriage. If the parents are not married at the time of the birth, legal action of some sort must be taken to establish paternity, or the child has no legal father.