When a baby is born and the child's parents are married to each other, the mother's husband is automatically assumed to be the child's father. But, if the child is born and the parents are not married, paternity will need to be established in order for the child to have a "legal father."
"Paternity" means to establish who a child's legal father is, and this is typically done through a voluntary paternity acknowledgement signed by the mother and father or by a family court order.
Often, when a child is born out of wedlock the parents sign the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit at the hospital, and all South Carolina hospitals are required to offer to help parents fill out this document.
If the parents agree to sign the document at the hospital, the hospital forwards the completed form to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Vital Records.
On the other hand, if one or both of the parents question paternity and do not want to sign the document, the hospital will not be able to assist them.
If a man is being told by a woman that he is the father of her baby and he is not 100% sure, he may want to have a paternity test, otherwise known as a DNA test to confirm that he is in fact the child's biological father.
Why Establish Paternity?
When children are born out of wedlock, paternity must be established before court orders can be issued for child support, child custody and visitation. Once a DNA test confirms that a man is a child's biological father, the child is:
- Entitled to child support
- Entitled the medical insurance (from the father)
- Entitled to have their father's name on their birth certificate
- Entitled to an inheritance from their father
- Entitled to see their father through child custody and visitation orders
- Entitled to know their father's family medical history
Generally in paternity cases, the mother's goal is to obtain child support and occasionally funds toward the birthing expenses, and the father's goal when initiating a paternity action is to exercise his rights to child custody or visitation.