The importance of getting paternity issues right

Many of South Carolina’s children are born out of wedlock. This can have tremendous implications when it comes to family law issues like child custody, child support, and visitation. On an emotional level, most children want to know, and most children should know, their father. Men and women may want to know who a child’s father is, too, so that an appropriate bond can be built.

However, there are also legal implications associated with the imposition of paternity, which is the term used to indicate the process through which a legal father is determined. For example, once paternity is established, a woman can seek child support from the child’s father. Additionally, a man who has established paternity has the right to seek custody of and visitation with his child.

The process of establishing paternity may seem pretty easy on its face. A man who is married to a woman at the time of a child’s birth will be presumed to be the child’s father, and DNA testing can also establish paternity. Even the signing of a paternity affidavit where the parties acknowledge a man as a child’s father can be legally binding.

While it sounds easy, there are times when paternity issues can be extremely complicated. For example, what happens when a child is conceived during the course of marriage and the father is not the mother’s husband? Although the husband may be presumed to be the father, upon divorce he may want to try to show that he is not the child’s father so that he can avoid making child support payments. These kinds of complicated issues arise all the time in family law courts, which is why those who find themselves facing them need to ensure that they have a knowledgeable legal ally on their side. Failing to do so could result in unintended and unwanted consequences that have ramifications for decades to come.