Under certain circumstances, the biological father of a child may be unclear. For many reasons, both the biological father and mother may wish to establish legal paternity. The process for establishing paternity can take many different forms.
There are various reasons for wanting to legally establish paternity, including, but not limited to:
Establishing legal rights, including access to Social Security, veteran’s, and inheritance benefits
Providing an accurate medical history of the child, which is helpful for health care professionals in diagnosing and preventing diseases
For a father, gaining visitation and/or custody rights
For a mother, obtaining child support payments
If a man is not married to a woman who gives birth to a child, paternity can be established by signing a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit. By signing this document, the man acknowledges that he is the biological father of the child. The mother of the child must also sign the affidavit and these signatures must be notarized. When the affidavit is signed and notarized, legal paternity is established and the father’s name will be listed on the birth certificate.
Paternity can be established using this method before the child is born, while the mother is in the hospital giving birth, or after the birth. If the child has already been born, paternity can be established using this process by completing the affidavit at the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) or at the county health department in the county where the child was born. The staff at both of these departments can notarize the signatures. Individuals are given 60 days to rescind the affidavit, which is done through the Department of Vital Records.
In some cases, the biological mother refuses to sign the affidavit described above. If that happens, paternity can be established by applying to the Department of Social Services (DSS) or the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED). The process begins with payment of a $25 fee and the completion of a Non-custodial Parent Application for Services. A DNA test will be administered to determine whether the person applying is the biological father of the child. Individuals are asked to pay the cost of the test ($125) only if the test is positive.
DSS and CSED will initiate the process for establishing paternity if a mother pursues child support through these agencies. This process involves administrative hearings, in which a caseworker will ask the alleged father whether he is actually the biological father. By saying yes to this question, legal paternity can be established, which can result in the individual being forced to pay child support. As a result, if there is any doubt and the man does not want to establish legal paternity if he is not the biological father, a DNA test should be requested.
Under South Carolina law, it is also possible to file a private civil action to establish paternity. During these actions, the court can order the involved parties to submit to genetic tests in order to determine parentage. If paternity is established, the court will issue an order that states the father is the natural or biological father of the child.
Establishing paternity is often important for everyone involved. For more information about the various ways legal paternity can be established, contact an experienced family law attorney today. At the Surasky Law Firm, we provide compassionate legal representation to individuals located in the Aiken, South Carolina area.