Knowing the identity of a child’s father is vital for the child and the parents alike. Unfortunately, the process of establishing paternity can be confusing and stressful for both fathers and mothers.
If you are a mother seeking financial assistance or a father who would like to secure custody or visitation rights with your child, seek guidance from a knowledgeable Beaufort paternity lawyer. The caring family attorneys at Schiller & Hamilton understand that the steps you take now can significantly impact the future of your family.
Paternity Laws in Beaufort
If a married couple gives birth to a child, the mother’s husband is legally presumed to be the child’s father. This presumption stands even if the mother and her husband know that he is not the child’s biological father.
If the parties are not married to one other at the time of birth, the biological father must establish his fatherhood before he has any legal rights to his child. Establishing parentage can be challenging for a man if the mother disputes that he is the child’s father. A seasoned attorney could fully explain the laws governing paternity determinations in Beaufort.
For a free legal consultation with a paternity lawyer serving Beaufort, call 1-855-865-4907
Voluntary Establishment of Fatherhood
Unmarried parents who agree on the father’s identity can consent to fatherhood by signing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment. The hospital typically presents this form to the parents shortly after the child’s birth. Once both parties sign and their signatures are notarized, the man is deemed the child’s legal father.
By signing the acknowledgment, the man assumes all the rights and responsibilities of a father. Additionally, his name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate, and he must consent to the child’s name before the final birth certificate is issued. Both parents are well-advised to consult a capable fatherhood attorney in Beaufort to confirm their legal obligations before signing the acknowledgment.
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Contested Paternity Actions in Family Court
If a mother disputes a man’s claim that he is a child’s father, either party can petition the court for a parentage establishment. As part of the legal action, a judge may order the parents and the child to undergo genetic testing to prove or disprove the man’s parentage. A parent may also request a DNA test from a local department of social services.
Alternatively, the department may initiate its own paternity action if the mother requests child support and the child’s father has not been established. Contested actions can be highly emotional, and a parent facing a parentage hearing should speak with a skilled Beaufort attorney before going to court.
Father’s Rights to Custody and Visitation
Under the South Carolina Code of Laws §63-17-20, custody of a child born out of wedlock rests with the mother unless she relinquishes her rights to the child. A man might form a personal relationship with his child without a legal paternity establishment, but that relationship is at the mother’s sole discretion. If she decides to prevent the father’s visits, a biological father who has not established parentage has no legal recourse.
Once a judge has determined paternity, the father has the right to petition for custody or visitation. State law generally favors custody arrangements that allow children to spend substantial time with both parents. However, when assessing the father’s request, a court will ultimately consider only what is in the child’s best interests. A fatherhood determination attorney in Beaufort could help someone solidify their requests in court.
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Being a father is among the most fulfilling experiences a person can have. Not only does a child benefit from meaningful relationships with both parents, but parents can also find emotional and economic support with each other as they raise the child.
If you seek to establish parentage, a seasoned Beaufort paternity lawyer could help you with the process. The dedicated legal team at Schiller & Hamilton understands the importance of parent-child relationships and could provide sound legal advice to any parent seeking a fatherhood determination. Call today to learn more.