Father's Rights in South Carolina
Establishing paternity in South Carolina is your first step in getting rights to your children

When babies are born, they form a strong bond with both of their parents. Babies rely on their mother and father to take care of them, support them, and teach them about the world for the first several years of their lives. Because the parents’ role is so important in a child’s life, many states like South Carolina have put laws into place to help protect the rights of children as well as the rights of both parents. When issues like paternity, custody, or child support arise between parents, they are usually handled in the South Carolina family law court system for the state in which the child or parents live.

Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life

When we think of the most important relationship in a child’s life, we often associate the mother as being the primary caregiver and nurturer. While this was true in families of the past – when mothers stayed home to care for children and fathers went into the workforce to provide for their families – modern family structures are seeing more and more fathers staying home while the mother earns for the family. While mothers have been traditionally favored in the family court system when it comes to child custody and support, modern decisions are seeing fathers playing a larger role as well.

Fathers play an important role in their child’s life. Aside from being equally capable caregivers and nurturers for children, fathers have also been found to play an important role in a child’s development of language and social skills, not to mention children who have loving, involved fathers often do better academically. When it comes to issues like child custody, it is important for fathers to remember they have paternal rights equal to their female counterparts when dealing with a court case, and judges are recognizing the importance of fathers’ involvement with children as well.

Establishing Paternity in South Carolina

When a child is born and the parents of that child are married, it is automatically assumed that the mother’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. In this case, the parents do not need to take any additional action to establish their child’s paternity. However, when a child is born and the parents are not married, the couple must take additional steps to legally establish their child’s paternity. Parents have two main options when it comes to establishing paternity in the state of South Carolina – they can voluntarily establish paternity or involuntarily establish it.

When the mother and father agree that the male is indeed the child’s biological father, they can use a voluntary process to establish paternity. To accomplish this, both parents need to fill out and sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form in the presence of notary public. Once this form is complete, it is sent to and filed with the Office of Vital Records for the state, and at that time, the father’s name can be legally added to the child’s birth certificate. If the parents do not agree, they need to use the involuntary process to establish paternity.

In situations where one parent does not want to sign the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement, the other parent has the option to seek paternity through a DNA or genetic test. This can be done through the Division of Social Services (DSS), and the test consists of the mother, the child, and the alleged father having the inside of their cheek swabbed for DNA. If one parent does not want to cooperate with this test, the DSS has the means to obtain a court order that would require that parent to cooperate. If the test shows the alleged father to be the child’s biological father, paternity can be established.

Once the child’s biological father has been determined via the DNA test, both parents need to visit the Office of Vital Records to have the father’s name added to the child’s birth certificate. When there are larger issues involved in a paternity case, it is possible for one of the parties to file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the family court system. If either the alleged father or the child’s mother denies the child’s paternity, the court may order genetic or DNA testing to biologically prove who the child’s father is. Based on the results of this test, the court issues an Order of Paternity.

Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation

When a father is seeking custody of his child, one of the first steps to take is to ensure paternity has been established. Once this is clear, he can file a complaint with the South Carolina family court system to have a child custody hearing. During this hearing, the judge follows the “best interests of the child” standard to make his or her custody decision – this standard is one followed by most U.S. states as well as the state of South Carolina. Under this standard, the judge makes a custody decision that best supports the child’s wellbeing.

In most cases, equal involvement from both the child’s mother and father is in the child’s best interest – this is why many judges prefer joint custody whenever possible. Joint custody means that the parents share time with the child and have an equal right to weigh in on important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, and medical care. However, in cases where joint custody is not an option, the judge seeks to name a “primary custodian” or the parent who has the child living in his or her care most of the time.

Judges use a number of factors to determine which parent is the better choice for primary custodian, but the child’s mother and father are evaluated equally, meaning gender does not play a role in the judge’s decision making. Should the father prove to be the better choice as primary custodian, the judge issues a custody order naming the father as such. When this is the case, the father then has the option to petition the court for child support. Child support is paid from one parent to another to help cover the costs of raising the child the parents share.

How a Father’s Rights Lawyer Can Help

The family court system can often be difficult to navigate, and fathers are sometimes not fully aware of their parental rights and how to enforce them in court. In these cases, hiring a family rights lawyer who specializes in father’s rights can be a huge advantage – these legal professionals understand the family court system and have a deep understanding of fathers’ rights to child custody and child support. This additional knowledge and guidance can be very important for fathers who are facing paternity, child custody, or child support cases to ensure they are treated fairly and their rights are upheld.

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