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Paternity and Divorce
Understanding Your Rights as a Father
The term paternity means “legal fatherhood” and refers to the rights and obligations that are conferred to fathers of children under the law. In situations where the unmarried biological father wants to become the legal father of a child, he must go through the process of establishing paternity. It is important to establish paternity so that both parents can have access to their children and have the opportunity to develop, enjoy and grow that relationship, however a father who want to establish paternity must also realize that he will become responsible for court ordered Child Support obligations.
The reasons for establishing a paternity action are numerous. A paternity action may be brought in order to impose a child support obligation, establish a right to inheritance, gain or prohibit child custody rights or secure consent for a child’s adoption.
There are three primary ways to establish legal fatherhood in South Carolina if the parties never married:
- Both parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement while at the hospital when their child is born
- Both parents can go to the State Office of Vital Records and complete the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement at any time after their child is born. There is a $27 fee involved with this method.
- A court or administrative order is issued stating who the legal father is (typically happens when unmarried parents request a low-cost DNA test)
The Benefits of Establishing Paternity
The Family law courts in South Carolina are the place where an unmarried biological father must turn to establish his rights of paternity and to have any visitation awarded to him. Fathers who seek paternity show that they are committed to their child and in turn, the court will grant them legal rights to regular and holiday visitation by having the paternity established in a court order.
In many cases, it is actually the mother who seeks to establish paternity of a child. The main reasons for seeking paternity as a mother is to relieve some of the financial burden of raising a child. Once paternity is established, the father can be held responsible for paying child support. Unmarried or single mothers often struggle with the high costs of parenthood, and the courts will typically rule in favor of the mother in child support cases after paternity has been established.
Paternity will also have an impact on child Custody, which is a term that refers to where the child is physically placed. Without paternity, the mother of the child will have complete control over child Custody and any visitation. When paternity is established and the parents cannot agree on child custody, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to give a recommendation for the best interests of the Child.
There are numerous factors that the court will consider in making this important decision such as:
- The Guardian ad Litem Report;
- The wishes of the child depending on the child’s age;
- How familiar the child is with each Parent;
- The child’s adjustment to the home, school, religion and community.
Skilled Help with Paternity Cases
If you are seeking to establish paternity, having the counsel and guidance of a Lexington, SC divorce attorney is an invaluable tool that can save you both time and frustration. Here at The Farley Law Firm, LLC, we are prepared to take on your case and provide you with the legal help you need to make the best decision for your family. Call today and learn more about your rights as a father.
Contact a Lexington paternity lawyer from my team for qualified counsel with a paternity matter.