Paternity cases usually come about when either parent petitions the court to determine custody for child support or to formalize the father’s child custody and visitation rights. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we believe children are more likely to thrive when they have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents.
Our family law attorneys advise parents in Florence and Myrtle Beach about their rights in paternity cases. If you’d like to petition the court to establish paternity, our attorneys are prepared to offer you skilled, experienced legal advice.
The Reasons for Establishing Paternity
In South Carolina, paternity means “legal fatherhood.” Establishing paternity is a necessary step in many cases before family court judges. A paternity attorney can help you establish or disprove paternity when an unmarried biological father wants to establish his legal rights as the child’s father, including the right to child custody and visitation.
Establishing paternity is also necessary when the child or children’s mother wants to establish the paternity of an unmarried biological father so she can hold the father responsible for his child support obligations. In other cases, paternity must be established for a child to establish his or her right to inherit from his or her father. Finally, it’s also necessary to establish paternity in order to obtain consent from a child’s father for adoption.
South Carolina’s Paternity Laws
When a child is born when his or her mother and father are legally married, the father has equal rights to the parent as the mother. The mother’s spouse is presumed to be the child’s father, even if he isn’t biologically related to the child.
Mothers are generally given sole custody of a child who is born outside of marriage in South Carolina. In order for a father to have legal rights to his child, he needs to take deliberate steps with the court to establish paternity. When a father establishes paternity, the court can provide custody and visitation rights as long as doing so is in the child or children’s best interests.
The Legal Benefits of Establishing Paternity
Fathers do not have automatic custody rights in South Carolina. Instead, they must establish legal paternity if the child was born outside of marriage to the child’s mother. If you’re a father and you’d like to see your child, you’ll need to establish legal paternity for your child. Similarly, your parents, the child’s grandparents, and other extended family members don’t have any rights to see the child either unless and until you establish paternity.
Many benefits come from establishing paternity in addition to establishing a father’s legal relationship with his child. Without establishing paternity, a father may have no legal rights related to the child, and the father won’t have the right to be involved in his child/s life or visit them. Establishing paternity will allow the father the following rights:
- The father’s name can be listed on the child’s birth certificate
- The father will need to be notified and give consent if the mother would like to place the child for adoption
- The father can pursue the right to child custody, including having input on important matters related to his child, such as education, medical treatment, and religious upbringing
Establishing Paternity Helps Create a Stronger Paternal Bond
In addition to conferring legal rights, establishing paternity laws can positively impact your child. When a father plays an active role in parenting, it has been shown to have a positive effect on the child and can contribute to the following:
- Access to insurance and other benefits
- A stronger sense of identity
- A positive impact on the child’s health
- Greater stability in life
- Greater self-esteem
- Decreased involvement in high-risk activities
- Stronger emotional bonds
- Access to greater resources
- Stronger bonds with the parent’s extended family
How to Establish Paternity in South Carolina
There are several ways to establish paternity in South Carolina. First, you could sign the child’s birth certificate at the hospital when your child is born. Second, you could sign a paternity acknowledgment at the hospital when your child is born.
Third, you could establish paternity through petitioning the court. Petitioning the court to establish paternity usually involves taking a paternity test to establish that you are the biological parent of the child. When you decide to attempt to establish paternity through the court, the child’s mother may agree or may contest the paternity action.
What If Paternity Is Contested?
It isn’t unusual for parents to disagree about what is best for their children. In some cases, the child’s mother may decide she doesn’t want the father to be involved in her child’s life. The mother may act unreasonably and refuse to allow the father access to the child. When paternity is contested, it’s crucial the father takes legal action to preserve his legal rights. A successful paternity action in court can allow you to be actively involved in your child’s life even if the mother is resistant to your involvement.
In order to succeed in your paternity case and obtain additional rights, you’ll benefit from working with a skilled attorney. The attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC need to know how to navigate the court system, present evidence in your favor, and make persuasive legal arguments to advance your position.
Paternity and Child Support
After you establish paternity, the court may order you to pay child support to help provide financial stability for your child. Even when a father doesn’t establish paternity, the mother may still pursue child support from you. Paying child support doesn’t automatically give a parent custodial rights, however. Generally, these two cases are treated separately. The attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC are prepared to help you navigate paternity the family law matters you’re facing.
We Have Years of Experience Representing Clients in Paternity Law Cases
The paternity attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC have decades of experience litigating a wide range of family law issues in South Carolina, including paternity actions. We know how to help you achieve your goals, including collecting child support and establishing paternity for child custody and visitation.
We will take time to learn about the circumstances of your case and your goals, answer your questions, and regularly communicate with you about your case’s progress. Don’t hesitate to contact Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.