Divorce is not easy, especially when there are children involved. When parents decide to go their separate ways, generally, it is thought that mothers receive full custody and fathers receive visitation rights every other weekend. But until a judge officially rules on custody, both parents are entitled to obtain custody. However, the circumstances are different when it comes to unwed parents.

Statistics show that 50 percent of births in South Carolina are to unmarried parents. In situations where parents are unwed, fathers will need to file and establish paternity before being entitled to seek custody. Until then a father's rights are limited.

At Fender Law Firm, our family law attorneys successfully strive to settle cases involving custody cases with unwed parents. Navigating through South Carolina’s legal system can be frustrating when considering the roles an unwed father plays in his child's life. Do not spend another minute away from caring for your child. At Fender Law Firm, we will work with you to settle a custody case in your favor.

Establishing Paternity

When an unwed father is looking to file for custody, he must establish paternity before then. Under South Carolina Statutes Section 63-17-20, residents that have sexual intercourse that results in a child are subject to jurisdiction. Additionally, a mother is entitled to full custody until paternity is established. Unwed fathers have the right to file for paternity and can petition for custody or visitation rights.

A father needs to know his rights and petition for custody. In some cases, a mother can file a paternity case, so that the father can assist in providing child support. Generally, the court may insist on a genetic test to determine paternity. In most cases, this is necessary in order to establish paternity. When paternity is established, a judge is able to rule on custody and visitation rights between the parents. Factors the judge will take into consideration include the financial stability of the father.

Custody or Visitation Rights

The establishment of paternity results in the parents receiving equal chances of custody. The judge will consider the situation of each case and unbiasedly rule in the best interest of the child. Factors a judge will consider are living situations, capacity to care, history of abuse or violence, substance abuse, health, and more.

When it comes down to determining custody, two options can occur. In the best scenarios, both parents will receive custody. However, in certain circumstances where one parent might not seem suitable to care for the cold, sole custody can be awarded to one parent.

Challenges Unmarried Fathers Face

An unmarried father faces a variety of hurdles when it comes to choices and involvement in his child's life. While every parent's situation is different, some circumstances can result in fathers missing out on their child's growth or being isolated from their child.

Challenges unmarried fathers can face include:

  • Their names being left off the child’s birth certificate
  • No inherent rights to visitation or custody
  • No say in major decisions regarding their child's education, medical treatment, or religion
  • No notification if their child is put up for adoption or is adopting

For fathers that desire to be involved in their child's life, establishing paternity is a priority. Once paternity is established, a father's rights are protected. A mother cannot legally keep a child away from the father once a judge officially established rights.

Family Law Attorneys at Fender Law Firm

The South Carolina legal system can be difficult to understand. If you are in the middle of a custody case, do not go through it alone. When involved in a paternity case, consulting a family law attorney is vital prior to taking legal actions. Paternity cases need to be handled correctly, if not, lack of understanding can negatively affect the outcome and result in a custody dispute.

At Fender Law Firm, our experienced family attorneys will closely review cases and ensure all rights are known. Challenges in family law situations are difficult to navigate. That is why we take on every case as if it is our own. We work to identify essential information in cases and develop strategies to best support clients. When you contact Fender Law Firm, we promise to listen to every detail of a family matter. We will also walk clients through the legal process and what to expect. If you find yourself in a situation where your rights as a father are being interfered with, contact the Fender Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.

Addison Addison

Addison Dowling Fender

At the Fender Law Firm, my wife Tracy and I are keeping alive the Fender/Dowling tradition of providing honest and effective legal services to our clients.