Fatherhood Issues

Establishing Paternity

In South Carolina

50% of children born in South Carolina are born to unmarried parents.

When a child is born out-of-wedlock in South Carolina, 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 have no legal recourse.

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.