In South Carolina, a man is presumed to be the father of any child born as a result of his marriage to his wife. Determining paternity for children born outside of a marriage is a little more complicated. An action to declare or determine paternity can be brought by limited parties, including the person claiming to be the father of the child, the natural mother of the child, the child him/herself, or DSS (the Department of Social Services).
How Do You Prove Paternity in South Carolina?
If you have been brought into an action for paternity as the purported father, you have three options: 1) contest paternity; 2) acknowledge/admit paternity; or 3) do nothing. If you admit paternity, you essentially waive your ability to contest paternity. If you do nothing, the court will likely hold you in default and determine you to be the father. If you contest paternity, the court will order a genetic test to determine the paternity of the child. You may be responsible for the cost of the testing if you are determined to be the child’s father. Paternity may be established by a positive genetic test, the father’s refusal to submit to the genetic test, a birth certificate signed by the purported father, or an expert’s opinion concerning the time of conception. The court may even elect to examine the child for physical characteristics and similarities between the child and the purported father.
An opportunity to contest or determine paternity also may arise if a father is served with an administrative notice of financial responsibility pursuant to South Carolina Code Section 63-17-730. If served with a notice of financial responsibility, the purported father may attend the negotiation, may request a hearing, or may object in writing within thirty days of service of the notice and the court will hold a hearing regarding the issues presented. If the purported father does none of these things, he may be held in default regarding all issues presented in the notice. The agency that filed the action may also establish paternity through the notice of financial responsibility by including notice of the same. Again, if the purported father does not appear or contest any of the issues regarding paternity, he may be held in default and the court may presume his paternity of the child or children at issue.
The Consequences of Paternity in South Carolina
The choice to establish paternity has various and lifelong ramifications. As a mother, establishing paternity for your child’s father means that the father may be responsible for paying child support; it also means the father may be entitled to visitation and parenting time with the child. As a father, if you choose to contest paternity and the child is determined not to be your child, you may be relieved of financially supporting the child, but you may also lose any right to visit with and parent the child. This can be particularly difficult if the purported father has been acting as the child’s father for a significant period of time.
Charleston Family Lawyers for Paternity Claims and Child Support
If there’s a question of whether you’re a child’s father, call our office immediately to schedule an appointment with an experienced family court attorney to review the documents with you and to advise you as to your possible courses of action, your rights, and your potential responsibilities. Likewise, if you wish to establish the paternity of a child you believe to be your own, contact an attorney in our office to learn about your rights, obligations, and the process to determine the same.
As a mother, if you are seeking to obtain or enforce an order of support or to establish paternity as to the purported father of your child, contact an attorney in our office to assist you in determining the best course of action and the consequences of bringing an action for paternity and child support. Likewise, if you have been served with paperwork by a man purporting to be the father of your child or children, let us give you the professional legal advice and help you need.