Aug 24

6 Effective Pieces of Evidence to Establish Paternity Quickly

Written by: Mikaila Matt



For an unmarried father to gain legal rights to his child, he must go through the process of legitimation first. This process is also known as establishing paternity of the child.

The Importance of Legitimation

If a child is born to unmarried parents, the child’s biological father does not have automatic legal rights to the child. Legitimation is the process a father, or a mother, goes through to gain parental rights to a minor child.  It can also be the first step in determining who is financially responsible for the minor child for child support to be ordered.  

Establish Paternity and Legitimation

Common Situations when Legitimation is Necessary

The most common situations when establishing paternity is necessary are: (1) when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, and the biological father wishes to establish his parental rights and (2) when a married woman gives birth to a child conceived of an extramarital affair, and the parental rights of her husband need to be extinguished and those of the biological father need to be established.

Unmarried Fathers When the Mother is not Married

Under South Carolina Code Ann. Section 63-17-60, the Family Court has jurisdiction over any person who has sexual intercourse in South Carolina who brings a paternity action.  When the parents of a child are not married, the mother of the child automatically has full legal and physical custody of the child until the father brings a legitimation action. During the action, the father asks the Family Court to establish paternity. Only after paternity is established does the father have parental rights such that he may be entitled to custody or visitation.

Unmarried Fathers When the Mother is Married

In South Carolina, there is an assumption that a woman’s husband is the father of any child she gives birth to during their marriage.  Even if the mother and husband agree he is not the biological father of the child, a hospital may still require the husband to be listed on the birth certificate.  If that happens, the mother, her husband, or the biological father can bring a legitimization action to prove paternity of the child.

Evidence to Prove Paternity or Legitimacy

When petitioning the Family Court to legitimate a child under S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-17-60, a party may use the following types of evidence to prove paternity:

  1. Results from a genetic test if they show a 95% or higher probability of paternity
  2. A signed and notarized Voluntary Acknowledgement witnessed by an adult not related to the minor child or employed/acting on behalf of Department of Social Services
  3. A foreign paternity determination
  4. A birth certificate signed by the mother and the man believed to be the biological father
  5. An expert’s opinion about the time of the child’s conception
  6. The testimony of the child’s parents

Resources for Establishing Paternity

If you believe you may be the father of a child born to someone you are not married to, you should create an account and register your paternity assertion with the Department of Social Services’ Responsible Father’s Registry. This registry is used to ensure all individuals with rights to a child are notified of any termination of parental rights or adoption actions related to the child. 

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families provides many resources to fathers, including parental programs and peer groups.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services also provides information about establishing paternity.

Legitimacy: Next Steps

If you are a father of a child born to a woman you are not married to, you will have to prove paternity of the child before you are entitled to custody or visitation.

If you are a mother of a child conceived outside of a marriage, you will have to prove paternity of the child before you can receive child support from the child’s father.

If you are the husband of a woman who gave birth to a child conceived with someone else, you will have to seek to terminate your rights to the child and establish the biological father’s paternity of the child.

In any of these situations, it is important to have the help of an experienced South Carolina Family Court lawyer to ensure your evidence of paternity is presented properly to accomplish your goals.