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A Division of the South Carolina Department of Social Services

Paternity Establishment

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What are the benefits of establishing paternity?
Paternity establishment can provide basic emotional, social and economic ties between a father and his child. Both parents and the child have the right to a full parent-child relationship. Both parents and the child have the right to develop, enjoy, and grow in the relationship. The child also has a chance to develop a relationship with the father, and to develop a sense of identity and connection to the other half of his or her family. Once legal paternity is established, a child gains legal rights and privileges. Among these may be rights to inheritance, rights to the father's medical and life insurance benefits, social security and, possibly, veterans' benefits. The greatest statistical indicator of whether or not an unmarried father will be involved in this child’s life is whether or not he establishes paternity.

What will the caseworker need to know to try to establish paternity?
The caseworker needs as much information as you can give about the possible father(s) and the facts about your relationship(s), your pregnancy, and the birth of your child. Some of these questions may be personal but SC DSS Child Support Services Division (CSSD) must keep the information that you give confidential. CSSD requires the party seeking a paternity test or child support to complete an application. You may need to provide birth certificates, proof of marriage, proof of divorce, or court orders depending on the facts of your case.

What if he denies he is the father, or he's not sure?
Paternity can be determined by the evidence presented in court, including highly accurate paternity tests conducted on the man, mother and child. Genetic test results indicate a probability of paternity and can establish a legal presumption of paternity, while excluding a wrongly accused man. All parties in a contested paternity case must submit to genetic tests at the request of either party.

What happens if I am not sure who the father is?
The more information that is provided to the Child Support Services Division, the better the chances are that paternity can be established. When more than one man could be the father of a child, each may be required to participate in a paternity test. These tests are highly accurate, and it is almost always possible to determine who fathered a baby and to rule out anyone who did not.

Who can request paternity establishment services from CSSD?
Either the mother, the child’s legal guardian, or the possible father may request the establishment of paternity through CSSD for a child born out of wedlock and for whom paternity has not been previously established.

How is paternity established?
Paternity can be established in South Carolina by a voluntary paternity acknowledgement signed by the parents, by an administrative order issued by CSSD, or by family court order.

When and where is the paternity acknowledgement signed?
When a child is born to unmarried parents, the hospital must offer to assist with signing the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit. If both parents are willing to sign and paternity is an issue, the hospital will assist you with completing the form and will forward it to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Vital Records, free of charge. If one or both parents are not willing to sign the document, the hospital cannot assist with the signing of the paternity acknowledgement affidavit. If the mother of the child is legally married to one man and has a baby by another man, the Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit cannot be completed at the hospital as the husband is legally presumed to be the father. When establishing paternity at the hospital by signing the Affidavit of Paternity, keep in mind it is a legally binding document signed under oath. Please read it carefully and provide only truthful information.
If the Paternity Acknowledgement is not signed by unmarried parents, the alleged father's name will not appear on the birth certificate. If the mother and father of the child are married, the name of the husband will appear on the birth certificate, without the need for the husband to sign a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit. The same conditions apply for filling out the Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit at the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Vital Records, that apply at the hospital. If the Paternity Acknowledgement is signed and notarized at DHEC Vital Records, there is a small fee for researching the birth certificate and amending it to add the father’s name and establish paternity.

Can I change my mind after the Paternity Acknowledgement is signed?
Either party may cancel the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit within 60 days after the date of the last signature. Canceling (or rescinding) the Affidavit of Paternity must be done at the State Office of Vital Records, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC; telephone number: 803-898-3630. Canceling the paternity acknowledgment cancels the father’s rights and responsibilities to the child but does not remove his name from the birth certificate. Only a family court judge can remove the name from the birth certificate.

Who is a presumed father?
A man is presumed to be the natural father of a child when a final and enforceable determination of paternity does not exist and:

  • The man and child's mother are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage;
  • The man and the child's mother are married to each other and the child is born after the man and the child's mother separate;
  • The man and the child's mother were married to each other and the child is born within 280 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, divorce, or dissolution;
  • The man and the child's mother attempted, before the child's birth, to marry each other by a marriage that was solemnized in apparent compliance with the law of the state in which the marriage took place, but the marriage is or could be declared invalid.

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What if there is more than one presumed father?
CSSD will make every attempt to notify all presumed fathers of a date and time for genetic testing. A genetic sample will likely be drawn from the parties who are present. Parties may be tested at separate times.

Who is an established father?
A man who has been declared by a court or administrative order to be the father of a child or a man who has signed the Paternity Acknowledgement and 60 days have passed.

How does genetic testing work?
Genetic testing is a quick and painless way to establish paternity. CSSD uses the buccal swab method where a genetic sample is collected by swabbing the inner facial cheek. The samples are collected by a trained technician.

How long will it take to get the results of my genetic testing?
Generally it takes three to four weeks to complete the paternity test once the last necessary party is tested. The parties will receive copies of the test results.

What is the cost for genetic testing?
CSSD offers a low-cost, court-admissible paternity test. The application fee is $25.00, in the form of a cashier’s check or money order, payable to SC DSS. The test fee is currently $83.55 for one presumed father, one mother, and one child with an additional $27.85 per additional person. The fee is subject to change without notice. If the paternity test confirms a presumed father is the biological father of the child, the biological father pays the test fee.

How will the genetic test results be issued?
The results will be issued through the United States mail or hand-delivered during a scheduled meeting or conference. Please keep CSSD updated with any changes in address so that all paperwork will be received. Please read all of your paperwork. To update your address, telephone number or other information, or if you need to reschedule an administrative hearing/meeting, please call the CSSD Customer Service Line at 1-800-768-5858.

What will happen when the genetic test results come back?
The State of South Carolina requires a finding of 95% or higher to establish a rebuttable presumption of paternity. Upon receipt of a genetic test result of 95% or higher, CSSD will set the case for an administrative child support hearing to establish paternity and, if the custodian requested, child support. If the result is returned at 0.00%, then CSSD would then close the case.

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Informative Video
If you have questions regarding paternity establishment or voluntary paternity acknowledgement, please view one of these videos:

in English

with Spanish subtitles

SC Parenting Opportunity Program
For Parents
Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Parents Acrobat Format (1740k)
Establecimiento de la Paternidad para Padres que No Están Casados Acrobat Format (1606k)
What if I am not sure if I am the father? About DNA testing. Acrobat Format (91k)
Memo To Dads Acrobat Format (89k)
Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing Paternity Acrobat Format (100k)
Rights and Responsibilities For Completing A Paternity Acknowledgement Acrobat Format (26k)
What if the Mother is married to someone else? Acrobat Format (222k)
For Hospital Staff
Training Manual for Hospital Staff Acrobat Format (1,888k)
Guide to Assist Hospitals with Paternity Acknowledgements Acrobat Format (740k)
Hospital Staff Best Practice Ideas Acrobat Format (53k)
Rights and Responsibilities For Completing A Paternity Acknowledgement Acrobat Format (26k)
For Partners
A Note to OBGYNs, Pregnancy Centers, and Other Partners Acrobat Format (493k)
en Español
¡Qué diferencia hace tener un Padre! Acrobat Format (57k)
Información Importante para Padres No Casados Acrobat Format (263k)
¿Y si no estoy seguro de quién es el padre? Acrobat Format (76k)
Memorándum Para Los Papás Acrobat Format (79k)
Preguntas frecuentes acerca de establecer la paternidad Acrobat Format (101k)
Derechos Y Responsabilidades Para Completar Un Reconocimiento De La Paternidad Acrobat Format (57k)

Further Information
For further information regarding Establishing Paternity at the hospital or about DNA Testing, you may contact us at:
       The South Carolina Parenting Opportunity Program
Child Support Services
P. O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469
(866) 914-8786

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