What is Paternity?
Paternity means that the law recognizes you as your kids’ dad. If you have paternity rights, then you also get a bunch of legal rights to your kids. This means you can visit them, get them medical help, and easily protect your rights in having a relationship with your kids. If you have “paternity,” that means the law recognizes you as your child’s only father. This right can’t be taken away from you without a fight.
Below we explain four ways you can establish paternity.
Usually, you seek to establish paternity when your son or daughter was born outside of marriage. Today, more and more children are born to unmarried parents. This could be for a number of reasons. Some couples choose not to get married. Others don’t want to have a wedding ceremony. Because weddings have become so grossly expensive over the years, others may not be able to afford a wedding. Some people see marriage as old-fashioned.
This makes it difficult for a father to prove his relationship to his kids. It’s easy to prove that you’re the mother. It’s very rare to deny someone is the mother of her kids. Part of this is because of stereotypes. Most people see moms as the kids’ primary caretakers. Even in 2017, many people still see dads as breadwinners and more distant from their children. It’s an unfair reality to dads.
How Do I Establish Paternity?
There are several different ways to establish paternity in South Carolina. You can establish paternity voluntarily. You can also establish paternity “involuntarily” by filing a court case.
1. You Can Establish Paternity Right After Birth
Establishing paternity is very important. If you have a child out of wedlock, you have to prove you’re the dad before your name goes on the birth certificate. If you have a child during a marriage, then your name goes on the birth certificate automatically. When a married couple has a child, the law assumes that the husband is the child’s father.
If you’re not married, then it’s still easy to get your name on the birth certificate. It just requires one more step. The father can sign a “Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit.” This can be done with a lawyer’s help. You can also do this on your own.
An affidavit is a sworn statement. When you sign an affidavit, you swear that what you’re saying in it is true. This kind of affidavit means that you acknowledge that you are the child’s biological father. Both the father and mother have to sign the affidavit.
You then need to have a notary notarize to get the affidavit. Once the affidavit is notarized, you are legally the child’s father. If you sign the birth certificate without this affidavit, you aren’t legally the father.
2. You Can Go To The Health Department
If you didn’t sign the birth certificate, you can still prove you’re the father. You can establish paternity by going to the Health Department. All health departments in South Carolina have vital records offices. You can fill out a paternity acknowledgment affidavit just like you normal would when the child is born. Both you and the child’s mother need to sign it. The birth certificate will then list you as the father.
You will have to pay a very small fee, about $15.00, if you go this route.
3. DSS Can Help You Establish Paternity Via DNA Test
Sometimes, a mother may not want to establish you as the father. Maybe she’s burning bridges from an old relationship. Or maybe she wants another man in her life to be the child’s father figure. Whatever the reason, the Department of Social Services can help.
If the mother refuses to sign the paternity acknowledgment affidavit, then you can go to DSS. They will have you fill out an application. It costs about $25.00 to process the application.
Part of this process is getting a DNA test. DSS won’t require you to pay for the DNA test unless you are the father. The DNA test costs about $125.00, and you can usually pay that over a several months.
Be aware, though, that if the test proves you’re the father, you will then be responsible for child support. DSS will often encourage the mother to seek child support from you.
If the DNA test is negative, then you won’t have to pay for the test, nor will you have to pay child support.
4. DSS Might Help The Mother, Too
If the mother wants to establish your paternity, DSS can help her with that, too. The mother can go to DSS and fill out an application. You will then have to show up to an administrative hearing.
When you go to this hearing, you may be asked if you are your kid’s biological father. If you say yes, then paternity is established. There will not need to be a DNA test. Sometimes, fathers feel tricked into establishing paternity, especially because they weren’t seeking it. Acknowledging you’re the father in this hearing has legal consequences.
You have the right to request a DNA test to prove you are the father. If you have any doubt, request a DNA test before admitting you are the father!
Need Help? Contact Us!
The Maron Law Group can help you establish your paternity. Contact us today for a free consultation.