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Paternity Establishment

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What is paternity?
Paternity means legal fatherhood. Establishing paternity is a process where an unmarried biological father becomes the legal father of his child. In South Carolina, there are primarily three ways to establish legal fatherhood.

  1. Both parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity while at the hospital when their child is born by completing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment. This is not a DNA test. See information below on acknowledging paternity at the hospital.

  2. Both parents can go to the State Office of Vital Records or to the Vital Records office at their County Health Department and complete the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment at any time after their child is born (there is a $27 fee to complete this process at Vital Records). Click here to see a list of all county health departments where you can complete a paternity acknowledgment affidavit.

  3. A court or administrative order is issued stating who the legal father is (this process is followed when unmarried parents request a low cost DNA Test through Child Support Enforcement – see information below).
Benefits of Paternity Establishment
Both parents and the child have the right to a full parent-child relationship. Both parents deserve an opportunity to develop, enjoy and grow in this relationship. The father has the right to know the child and to contribute to the success of the child's future. The greatest statistical indicator of whether or not an unmarried dad will be involved in his child’s life is whether or not he establishes paternity.

Paternity helps children...
  • have a relationship with both parents
  • gain the security of knowing that their father cares
  • have knowledge of both families’ medical histories
  • achieve better outcomes
  • decrease the likelihood of high-risk behavior
  • have access to health insurance and/or benefits such as Social Security or inheritance

Paternity helps mothers...
  • share the responsibility and rewards of parenthood
  • share the cost of raising the child

Paternity helps fathers...
  • gain legal rights to their child by having his name on the birth certificate
  • show that they are committed to their child
  • establish an emotional bond with the child and participate in the child’s life

Important Information About Establishing Paternity at the Hospital
If both parents are sure that the man is the biological father, they can complete a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment at the hospital when their child is born.


The process is easy and available to parents if the mother was not married at any time during her pregnancy.

Parents simply complete a Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit with the birth clerk. This is a quick summary of the steps to complete the form:

  • The hospital will review the affidavit with you and answer any questions you have.
  • Both parents must have a valid photo ID and social security number (if you have one).
  • Both the mother and the father sign the same form in front of hospital staff.
  • The hospital staff will witness that neither parent is being forced to sign the form against their will.
  • Hospital staff will notarize it and send it to the Office of Vital Records with the birth certificate record.

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
Important Information for Unmarried Parents Acrobat Format (1416k)
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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