Myrtle Beach Paternity Lawyer
Paternity is a term that is used to define the legal fatherhood of a child. It can become very important if you need to establish whether or not a child is actually yours in a child support claim. Myrtle Beach, SC, child custody cases often hinge on proving this, and you may need an experienced paternity lawyer to assist you.
At Indigo Family Law, we are able to help you with all aspects of proving or disproving your fatherhood in regard to the children of your partners. Whether married or not, we can help you with the daunting issues involved in filing or fighting legal actions around paternity.
How the Law Categorizes Fatherhood
Being a functional father who takes care of his children, provides for them, and helps them grow into adults is very different from the law’s definition of fatherhood. Paternity can be established or denied in several categories, such as:
When you are married at the time of the child’s conception or birth, you are legally considered to be the child’s presumed father. This holds true even if you divorce or annul the marriage before the baby’s birth or within a short time after.
If you think the child was fathered by someone else, you will need to go to court and request DNA testing for yourself and the child to establish that you are not legally responsible for child support.
If you are not married to the child’s birth mother, but you have admitted in court that you are the father, you are considered the acknowledged father. You are legally responsible for child support but do not have legal custody or visitation rights. You will need a paternity attorney to assist you in seeking these rights.
You are an unwed father if you have had a child with someone but have not acknowledged paternity legally or have not been shown to be the father through a test. You have no right to custody or visitation with the child, but you also have no legal obligation to provide financial support.
If you marry someone who has children from a previous marriage and that man is the established father, you do not have legal or custodial rights to those children. You may perform the duties of a father, but in South Carolina, children can only have two legal parents.
To legally adopt your stepchildren, the father would have to renounce his rights as a parent. This often requires filing a legal motion to establish that he has abandoned the children or that he voluntarily gives up his claim to the children. This relieves him of financial obligations, but he also loses visitation and custody rights.
You cannot establish paternity for the children, but your legal adoption would provide significant protection for them should their birth mother pass away.
Establishing Paternity in Myrtle Beach, SC
Paternity is something many people do not think about very often. If you have children with a partner, it is commonly assumed you are their genetic father. However, you may want proof of whether the child is yours or not if you suspect adultery or if you are unmarried and the child’s birth mother says you are the father.
Paternity actions are filed by parents who want to support a claim for child support. They can also be filed by children who want to establish a right to inheritance from the father. In some cases, a person may seek a paternity action to prohibit having to pay child support if the child is not theirs.
If two individuals have never been married, paternity can be established in one of three ways in South Carolina:
- Both parents sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement (VPA) at the hospital after the child’s birth.
- Both parents complete the VPA form at the State Office of Vital Records at any time after the birth.
- The parents request a DNA test and submit proof to a court which then issues an order stating who the legal father is.
When a child is born to an unmarried mother, the state assigns sole legal custody to that parent. Fathers must file a paternity action such as the VPA or another action to secure their legal rights to the child. Otherwise, they have no say in any decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, or religious upbringing.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity for Fathers in South Carolina
When you are not married to the parent of your child, you have very few rights in South Carolina. You do not automatically have legal or physical custody, which is given to married fathers. You will need to go through the courts to establish legal fatherhood if you do not have a committed relationship with their birth mother.
Many unwed fathers derive significant benefits from establishing paternity, such as:
- Greater sense of family identity
- Greater tax, financial and social benefits such as tax credits, health insurance, and inheritance
- Heightened self-esteem
- Higher daily involvement with children
- More informed family medical health history
- Shared parenting opportunities with extended family resources
Many people find they want to step up and play a larger role in their children’s lives. This can be done most successfully when you have the legal standing to provide time, input, guidance, and finances to support the child. A paternity attorney from Indigo Family Law can guide you through the process of filing the paperwork. We also work with the birth mother on your behalf if needed.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity for Mothers in South Carolina
In many cases, it is the mother who wishes to establish legal fatherhood. Single or unmarried mothers raising children on their own face significant financial burdens without assistance from the father. The birth mother may seek paternity testing so they can have strong legal standing for pursuing child support.
Custody can also be affected by proof of paternity. If a man claims the fatherhood of a child, but the birth mother does not believe him to be the father, she can ask for paternity testing. This may be done to protect the child from interaction with someone who is not their biological parent.
How Older and Adult Children Can Benefit From Proving Paternity
As children age and become adults, determining whether someone is their biological father can become extremely important. Many adult children are seeking their medical history, ancestry information, or support for an inheritance claim. Proving that a person is or is not their father could mean a great deal when they are making treatment decisions about dangerous genetic diseases.
In cases where a child stands to gain a great deal of inheritance, they may benefit from having a firm legal claim when the estate is being settled. Children can also be eligible for coverage under the father’s employer-provided healthcare insurance and receive government benefits.
How Paternity Tests Are Conducted
In South Carolina, most paternity tests are performed using a buccal swab. The inside of your cheek will be swiped with a large medical swab, and the cells will be sent to a lab for testing. Both parents must consent to the testing, and each will receive a copy of the test results. Results can also be shared with the paternity lawyers involved in the case.
Testing is done through the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) or the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSE). Either parent can request a paternity test. The father must complete a Non-Custodial Parent Application for Services and pay a $25 processing fee. There is no charge for the actual test, and results are available in about three to four weeks after the swab is taken.
When the Test is Positive
If the test indicates a 95% or higher chance of fatherhood, the man’s paternity is established. This does not guarantee you custody or visitation rights, but it does mean that you are legally considered the father.
This means you are also legally obligated to provide child support. The custodial parent can pursue this support with the help of a paternity attorney. If you wish to seek visitation and custody rights with the child, you will also need a lawyer.
If you submitted to a test that showed you were the father, but you do not believe you are, you have the right to dispute the results or request a blood test.
When the Test is Negative
If the results show you are not the father, then the mother will not have a legal basis for pursuing child support. You also will have no standing to request visitation or custody since you are not related. If you do believe you are the biological father of the child, then you can ask to have a blood test performed.
Who Else Can Request a Paternity Test
If the birth mother wants to obtain child support from the man she believes is the father, but he has not acknowledged fatherhood, the DSS and CSE will request proof of paternity. Performing the test is in the potential father’s best interests because if he is not the father, he can avoid paying for a child who is not his.
Potential fathers may also simply appear in court and answer yes to questions about their paternity to establish a legal relationship with the child. However, it is important to be careful about choosing this option. It is legally binding and requires significant effort to reverse. If the man has any doubt about the situation, it is best to choose the DNA test.
Special Paternity Situations
Children can be born into many situations where parents may be married or unmarried. In some cases, parents may not be committed to one another before the birth but decide to become a family afterward. South Carolina provides a process called legitimation for these instances.
You Marry The Birth Parent After the Birth
Suppose your child does not have a father listed on their birth certificate because you were not married to their birth mother at the time. If you get married later on, you can visit your nearest Vital Records office or the DHEC State Vital Records Office in Columbia to request legitimation. This legal action establishes that you are the child’s legal father. The birth certificate will be amended to add your name.
You will need to provide documentation such as a certified copy of the marriage license, an affidavit of the request signed by both parents and notarized, and a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate. Your request will be reviewed to determine if it can be completed. If so, you will receive the amended birth certificate within a few weeks.
You Want to Claim Paternity but Are Not Marrying the Birth Parent
If you are not ready to marry the birth mother but wish to be legally recognized as the child’s father, you can file a request to have a Paternity Acknowledgement (Out of Wedlock) added to the birth certificate. This is usually requested by the birth mother and requires a certified copy of the birth certificate with a photo ID and a request to add the father’s name.
However, via SC DHEC, you cannot be added as the father if the birth mother was married at any time during their pregnancy or at the time of the child’s birth. This is also unavailable if there is already a father’s name on the birth certificate.
Similar to the process of adding a father’s name after marriage, this paternity acknowledgment requires a signed and notarized form submitted to the DHEC State Vital Records office. If the review shows the father can be added to the certificate, you will receive the amended birth certificate in a few weeks.
The Birth Mother Wishes to Relinquish Their Parental Rights
If the birth mother does not wish to keep her child and wants to give up her rights, only a presumed father will have automatic legal rights. If you and the birth mother were never married, you will need to establish paternity and then also file for custody rights.
Courts will consider this matter carefully, but once a parent signs away their legal parental claim to the child, a judge will usually award custody to the other legal parent. A family law judge will examine the situation and base their decision on some of the following factors:
- The father’s character, fitness, and attitude
- The father’s living situation
- The father’s ability to care for the child
- The father’s past and current relationship with the child
- The child’s health
- The child’s age and preferences
- The child’s gender
If the birth mother’s family members seek custody, you may have a long legal battle ahead of you. The judge will need to examine every person who is hoping to claim the child in order to make a decision in the child’s best interests. If the court feels that a family member of the birth mother can better care for the child, you may still be able to seek shared custody and visitation rights.
The critical part is to establish paternity before you proceed. Without the evidence that you are the child’s father, you cannot secure any rights to care for the child.
How Indigo Family Law Paternity Lawyers Help You
Paternity cases are very complex and can be emotionally overwhelming. The individuals involved may or may not have a good relationship. Frequently, they are angry and wish to use paternity to hurt one another. Thankfully, we see many cases where a parent wishes to legally establish fatherhood as a means of providing for and protecting their children.
Paternity concerns are usually tied up with custody, visitation, and child support cases. All of these are part of family law, so a paternity lawyer is qualified to help you review and agree on all of them. As an unmarried father, you need to do more than simply sign a paternity acknowledgment form to put your name on the child’s birth certificate.
We can assist you in working out agreements so that your paternity is established to allow you to have the involvement you want in your child’s life. No matter how complex your situation is, we have the knowledge, experience, and compassion to craft the best legal outcome for you and your family.
Contact a Myrtle Beach Paternity Lawyer for Help Today
Establishing paternity can be complicated for many fathers in South Carolina. When you wish to be absolutely sure that your rights are being protected and your children are cared for, you need guidance from a skilled Myrtle Beach paternity lawyer.
At Indigo Family Law, family matters most to us. We understand how to negotiate divorce, custody, and visitation agreements with the best interests of the children in mind. No matter how bitter couples may feel toward one another, our legal professionals dedicate themselves to keeping things calm and focused on the most beneficial outcome.
If you need help understanding South Carolina’s paternity laws and how they apply to you, do not hesitate to contact us now to schedule a consultation.