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What Rights Does an Unwed Father Have in South Carolina?


These days, it’s common for children to be born to unmarried parents; the stigma that existed 100 years ago is almost completely gone now. Why are so many children being born out of wedlock? For one, society’s views about marriage have changed. Unhappy spouses are no longer expected to “stick it out” and remain in a bad marriage because divorce is viewed as a perfectly okay thing to do, not a sign of failure.

People simply don’t rush into marriage like they used to, and more and more people don’t want to marry because of a pregnancy. Instead, they’re choosing to raise their children their own way, which means we’re seeing a lot more children being born to unwed parents than in generations past. However, this shift in parenting views has raised a lot of concerns about the rights of unmarried fathers and reasonably so.

Married Fathers’ Rights Are Automatic

When a woman is married, the law automatically assumes that her husband is her child’s biological and legal father. This is the case in South Carolina and in all 50 states. In fact, a married woman can be pregnant with another man’s baby, but unless paternity is established, the law assumes that her husband is the child’s father.

“What about unmarried fathers? What rights do they have?” Unless paternity is established voluntarily or through a court-ordered DNA test (genetic testing), unmarried fathers by law, have zero rights and responsibilities toward their children. That means they can’t go after child custody, they can’t seek visitation, and the mothers cannot ask for child support.

In order for an unwed father to have any rights and responsibilities for his child, paternity has to be established first. The word “paternity” means to establish who a child’s legal father is, and there are two ways to do this in South Carolina: 1) the mother and father voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit at the hospital before a notary after the child’s birth, or 2) through a court-ordered DNA test.

Whether you are the child’s mother or the presumed father, if there is any doubt about paternity, we do not recommend voluntarily signing the Paternity Affidavit. Instead, you should ask the court for genetic testing, this way you can know for sure. To learn more about establishing paternity, contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. for help!

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