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Establishing Paternity

What is paternity?

Paternity means legal fatherhood. If parents were unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, they can complete a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit to create a legal connection between the child and their biological father.

Establishing a legal father benefits everyone involved!

It helps children…

  • Feel good about themselves because they know they are wanted
  • Feel secure in knowing they are part of a family with two parents who care
  • Know about both families’ medical and family histories
  • Get access to health insurance and benefits like Social Security and inheritance
  • Grow up happier and healthier
  • Stay away from high-risk behaviors

It helps moms…

  • Get help with responsibilities and decisions
  • Share the joys of being a parent
  • Divide the costs of bringing up the child

It helps dads…

  • Get legal rights to have a relationship with their child
  • Show that they are committed to their child
  • Create an emotional bond with their child and be a part of their child’s life
  • Share their side of the family with their child
  • Ask the court to assist with visitation and custody matters.


If you think that you may have fathered a child, you may register with the Responsible Father’s Registry to protect your rights should the child be placed for adoption.

For married parents, paternity is assumed at birth. For unmarried parents, paternity can be established through a paternity acknowledgement at the hospital or at DHEC Vital Records (or any county health department) after leaving the hospital. 

If you are unsure about the biological parentage of the child, DSS can provide DNA testing to establish paternity and can assist in establishing an order of paternity through the court.  The testing is free. 


for Paternity Establishment


Click the info graphic to learn more.


For Hospital Staff - Paternity Establishment Resources 

Training Manual for Hospital Staff

SC Parenting Opportunity Program Training Module


Additional Resources

Information about obtaining Birth Certificates and other vital records can be found at: Fees apply.

When You Want to Add a Father’s Name (Out of Wedlock) to Your Child's Birth Certificate
If a father was not listed on the birth certificate following the birth of a child at the hospital, a DHEC amended birth certificate form will need to be completed.

A paternity acknowledgment cannot be completed if the mother was married at any time during the pregnancy or at the child's birth, or if another father is recorded on the birth record.

More information can be found here.





Child Welfare Services Transformation

Best Outcomes for Children and Families

Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.