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Establishing Paternity

When a child is born out-of-wedlock in S.C., the biological father has no legal rights or connection to the child until he establishes legal paternity.


When a child is born within marriage, the male spouse of the mother is automatically designated as having legal paternity whether or not he is the biological father. If the couple is unmarried or the biological father is someone other than the mother’s spouse, the biological father must complete the defined process to establish legal paternity.

Legal visitation rights cannot be established without first establishing legal paternity. Often a biological father forms a personal relationship with his child without legal paternity or legal visitation rights. That relationship, however, may depend solely on the discretion of the mother. If the mother decides to stop the father's visits, the biological father who has not established both legal paternity and legal visitation rights has no legal recourse.


How do you know paternity is not established?

  • The father's name is not on the birth certificate
  • The father has no visitation or custody rights
  • The father has no legal say in decisions such as education, medical treatment or religion
  • The father does not have the right to be notified if his child is being adopted

Use our Father's Guide to Establishing Paternity in SC.

If you are not certain you are the father, do not complete a paternity acknowledgment form. You can, however, protect your rights by enrolling with the Responsible Father Registry.