4 Reasons Why It is Important to Establish Paternity in South Carolina

February 22, 2024
Family Law

Establishing paternity can be a sensitive subject. Depending on your family situation, you may wonder if establishing paternity is right for you. Seeking the legal advice of an experienced Rock Hill, SC, family law attorney can shed light on the implications of paternity for your unique situation.

Whether you are a father who wants to ensure you have a legal say in your child’s life or a mother protecting your right to financial security should the relationship end, paternity matters.

1. Establish Parental Rights Under South Carolina Law

The family landscape has shifted dramatically over the years. According to a recent study, nearly 40% of all children are born outside of marriage. When parents are married, paternity is automatically assumed. For unwed couples, paternity must be established for a father to be considered the child’s legal parent.

Without legal parental rights, a father:

  • Has no right to custody
  • Has no right to visitation
  • Has no rights concerning medical care, religion, or education
  • Has no control over the potential adoption of the child

If a mother wishes to marry and have her partner adopt her child, she is completely within her rights to do so. If she wishes to move out of the state and cut off all contact, a father has no say until paternity is be established.

2. Access to Information

Legal parents have the right to be notified about any court proceedings involving their child, including:

  • Custody hearings
  • Juvenile and criminal proceedings
  • Adoption proceedings

In addition, parents have the right to information regarding their child’s medical, educational, or religious affairs. Without established paternity, fathers can be left in the dark and completely unaware of important matters in their child’s life.

3. Financial Support

Much of the contention surrounding paternity resides in child support. All parents must provide financial support to their children. However, there are other financial concerns.

For example, if paternity is not established, the child is not entitled to:

  • Life insurance benefits
  • Pensions or retirement benefits
  • Social security benefits
  • Inheritance rights

This can come as a shock for many unwed couples should the father pass unexpectantly. Even if you lived as a family unit, if paternity was never established, your child could be left without any financial security or support in the future.

4. Custody and Visitation

A father has no custody or visitation rights to a child unless paternity can be established. Custody and visitation are the foundation of any court-ordered parental plan and can be more complex than many parents realize.

Some fathers may simply wish to spend time with their children. Gaining visitation rights will ensure those visits remain constant. Other fathers may wish to have custody of their children, petitioning the court for part, half, or full-time custody.

In South Carolina, fathers have less than the national average of custody time with their children. While many states have moved toward a 50% custody time split between parents, fathers nationwide typically receive only 35% of time. In South Carolina, fathers spend 27.8% of shared time with their children.

Regardless of your circumstances, the right to any time with your child begins with establishing paternity.

How a Family Law Attorney in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Can Help with Your Paternity Matter

At Barboza Law, we understand everyone’s family needs are unique. The discussion of paternity and parental rights can be emotional, even under amicable circumstances. Having a South Carolina paternity lawyer by your side can help you protect the best interests of your child by:

  • Ensuring paternal rights are established
  • Defending against challenges to your parental rights
  • Help ensure the court’s decision is upheld

A family law attorney is a personal advocate for you and your child. Establishing paternity is important whether you are a father seeking parental rights, a mother wishing to legally identify the father, or an unwed couple simply wishing to ensure all family members have the rights they deserve.

Schedule a consultation with our highly skilled family law attorney in Rock Hill, SC, today by calling (803) 973-6003.

Paternity FAQs

If I’m the Biological Father, Don’t I Already Have Rights?  

Biological fatherhood and legal fatherhood are different. Every child has a birth father. However, a father only has legal rights in South Carolina if paternity can be established.

Unfortunately, some parents do not realize the necessity of establishing paternity until they are facing an obstacle. Fathers may be denied visitation or the right to make a medical decision, shedding light on how limited their rights are until paternity can be proven.

Should I Establish Paternity if We Are Still Together?  

Many couples are waiting longer to legally commit, preferring instead to live together. Happily, unwed parents may think establishing paternity is unnecessary. However, not establishing paternity severely limits your rights and protections.

Parents may disagree about future important medical and educational decisions. If a father has not established paternity, his views and opinions only matter as much as the legal parent allows.

Should the relationship end years from now, a mother will not have any right to child support until paternity can be established. Mothers who have assumed child support is automatic or trusted their partner to be fair may find themselves digging a financial hole while battling paternity in court.

Do I Need to Establish Paternity if I am in a Same-Sex Relationship?

Paternity is just as important for unwed, same-sex couples. Establishing parentage under the law may be more complex, depending on the method of conception.

While adoptions involve two people becoming the legal parents of a child, using a sperm donor, egg donor, or surrogate may involve different legal paperwork to ensure both parents have equal rights.