Having a child is a rewarding and life-changing experience. If you are not married and want the father’s name on your child’s birth certificate, you need to establish paternity. “Establishing paternity” is the process by which an unmarried biological father becomes the legal father of his child.
Why is establishing paternity so important?
Studies show that men who establish paternity at the hospital are more likely to have a relationship with their child. Your child needs love and support from both of you!
Paternity helps children:
- Have a relationship with both parents and their extended families
- Gain the security of knowing that their father cares and is there for them
- 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 their child
Paternity helps fathers:
- Gain legal rights to their child
- Show they are committed to their child
- Establish an emotional bond with their child and participate in the child's life
If you are both sure of the identity of the child's biological father AND you do not want a DNA test, you can complete a Paternity Acknowledgment at the hospital. The Paternity Acknowledgment, which is completely voluntary, is the easiest way to establish paternity--plus, it's free while you're at the hospital!
To complete a Paternity Acknowledgment at the hospital, BOTH PARENTS must:
- Be present at the hospital
- Have a valid government-issued picture ID card such as a driver's license or state identification card (please be aware that expired identification cannot be accepted). If you do not have a driver's license, a state identification card is available at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. If your country of origin is not the United States and you do not have a valid government-issued picture ID, you can apply in person for a consular identification card from your country's consulate. For more information, go to http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco/index.htm.
- Have their Social Security number (if they are United States citizens)
If the father cannot be present or either of you does not have your ID and Social Security number (if you are a U.S. citizen), then the hospital cannot add the father’s name to the birth certificate.
If either of you is not 100% sure of paternity, do not complete the Paternity Acknowledgment. You can get a low-cost DNA test through the Department of Social Services after your child is born. For more information about the test, call the South Carolina Parenting Opportunity Program at 866-914-8786 or go to www.state.sc.us/dss/csed/patest.htm. If you have any questions even before your baby is born, call the Birth Certificate Clerk at 843-522-5744. You may also call the South Carolina Parenting Opportunity Program toll-free at 866-914-8786.