Paternity is a legal term used in family law when determining a child's legal father and when defining the associated rights and obligations a father owes to his child. There is a biological father for each child, which refers to the father who contributed his genetic material to the child, but the biological father is not always the legal father of the child. Instead, a different person may be the legal father of the child. Legal paternity is automatically given to the man who is married to the mother of the child at the time of the child's birth, even if he is not the child's biological father. The legal father's name will be placed on the child's birth certificate. However, in South Carolina unmarried couples must establish paternity prior to the father's name being placed on the child's birth certificate, regardless of whether the man is the biological father or not.
Establishing Paternity in South Carolina
Under South Carolina law, paternity can be established voluntarily if the parents of the child both agree that the man is the biological father by signing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement at the time of the birth or shortly thereafter; the document must also be notarized to be considered valid.
If there is a dispute between the mother of the child and the father as to whether he is the legal father of the child, then paternity must be established involuntarily by one of two methods. First, either parent of the child could petition the Family Court by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity, or in the case of the custodial parent, paternity could be established involuntarily by the court by filing for child support. In either court proceeding, the court may order DNA testing. A determination by the Family Court that the father is in fact a biological parent of the child will result in legal paternity being established. Alternatively, a parent can contact the Department of Social Services and request DNA testing of the whole family, i.e., mother, father and child. Positive test results indicating that the father is the biological father will result in legal paternity being established.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
Establishing the paternity of a child is beneficial for everyone in the family. The father is able to develop a bond and a relationship with the child, and is also granted rights concerning the child, such as a say in how the child is raised and the right to request custody of the child or have visitation rights if the mother and father do not remain together. The mother is able to share parenting and financial responsibility for the child. But most importantly, the child can develop a relationship with his or her legal father, and can also take advantage of insurance, benefits and inheritance from the legal father.
Reaching Out to a Charleston Family Law Attorney
Being a father to your child is one of the most rewarding experiences a parent can have. Whether you are the biological father, the legal father, both, or are interested in establishing paternity for your child, please contact an experienced Charleston family lawyer today. The divorce lawyers at Sarji Law Firm, LLC are experienced in family law and can help you through this challenging time. Please get in touch with us by calling 843-323-4341.