The Rights of Unmarried Parents - South Carolina

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Definitions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-9-820; 63-9-310

An 'unmarried biological father' is a person who is not married to the birth parent of a child of whom they are or claim to be the natural other parent.

The parent of a child born when the parent was not married to the child's birth parent may establish the right to receive notice of an adoption proceeding as follows:

  • If the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents more than 6 months after the child's birth, and the parent has maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child as demonstrated by the following:
    • Payment toward the support of the child of a fair and reasonable sum, based on their financial ability
    • Visits to the child at least monthly when they are physically and financially able to do so
    • Regular communication with the child or with the person or agency having lawful custody of the child
  • A parent of a child born when they were not married to the child's birth parent, who openly lived with the child for 6 months within the 1-year period immediately prior to placing the child for adoption, and who during that time openly held themself out to be the child's parent is considered to have maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child.
  • If the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents 6 months or less after the child's birth, the following apply:
    • The parent openly lived with the child or the child's birth parent continuously for 6 months immediately prior to placing the child for adoption, and they openly held themself out to be the child's parent during that time.
    • The parent paid a fair and reasonable sum, based on their financial ability, for the child's support or for expenses incurred in connection with the birth parent's pregnancy or the child's birth, including, but not limited to, medical, hospital, and nursing expenses.

Use of Parentage Registries

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-9-810; 63-9-820

The responsible father registry shall be established and maintained by the Department of Social Services. It is the purpose of the registry to provide notice to unmarried biological parents who affirmatively assume responsibility for children they may be the genetic parent by registering with the registry.

Except as set forth in § 63-9-730(B), to preserve the right to notice of an adoption proceeding or a petition for termination of parental rights, a registrant must file a claim of parentage with the registry. A claim of parentage filed with the registry must not be deemed to be an acknowledgment of parentage, and a claim of parentage filed with the registry, as well as any other information contained in the registry, is not admissible as evidence in any proceeding.

Except for a person who is required to receive notice pursuant to § 63-9-730(B), an unmarried biological parent's failure to file a claim of parentage with the registry constitutes an implied irrevocable waiver of the parent's right to notice of any proceedings pertaining to the termination of parental rights and to the child's adoption. Such waiver includes a waiver of any right of the parent to be named as a party or served with a summons or any other document prepared in conjunction with a termination of parental rights proceeding or an adoption proceeding.

Alternate Means to Establish Parentage

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-17-10; 63-17-30; 63-17-60

An action to establish the parentage of an individual may be brought by a child; the child's natural birth parent; any person in whose care a child has been placed; an authorized agency, including the department; or a person who claims to be the child's other parent.

When a parentage action has been commenced, the court, upon its motion or that of an interested party, may order the natural birth parent, the putative other parent, and the child to submit to genetic tests that have been developed for the purpose of proving or disproving parentage.

The following evidence is admissible at a hearing to determine parentage:

  • Results of genetic tests that show a statistical probability of parentage of 95 percent of higher
  • A verified voluntary acknowledgment of parentage
  • A birth certificate containing the signature of the birth parent and the putative other parent
  • An expert's opinion concerning the time of conception
  • The testimony of spouses as to any relevant matter, including marriage and parentage
  • Any other relevant and competent evidence deemed admissible in the discretion of the court

A verified voluntary acknowledgment of parentage executed after January 1, 1998, creates a conclusive presumption of the putative other parent's parentage. The acknowledgment must be made by a sworn document, signed by the person acknowledging parentage, and witnessed by (1) that person's attorney, parent, or guardian or (2) a person aged 18 or older who is not related to the child and not employed or acting under the authority of the department.

Required Information

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-9-820

A claim of parentage must be signed by the registrant and must include the following:

  • The registrant's name, address, and date of birth
  • The birth parent's name and, if known, their address and date of birth
  • If known, the child's name, place of birth, and date of birth
  • If known, the date, county, and State of conception of the child
  • The date the claim is filed

Revocation of Claim to Parentage

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-9-820; 63-17-50

A person who has registered with the registry may at any time revoke a claim of parentage and shall file the revocation with the department in the manner prescribed by the department. The filing of a revocation of a claim of parentage makes the prior claim of parentage filed by the registrant null and void.

A verified voluntary acknowledgment of parentage creates a legal finding of parentage, subject to the right of any signatory to rescind the acknowledgment within the earlier of either of the following:

  • Sixty days
  • The date of an administrative or judicial proceeding relating to the child, including a proceeding to establish a support order in which the signatory is a party

Upon the expiration of the 60-day period, a verified voluntary acknowledgment of parentage may be challenged in court based only on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof upon the challenger. In the event of a challenge, legal responsibilities, including child support obligations, of any signatory arising from the acknowledgment may not be suspended during the challenge except for good cause shown.

Access to Information

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-9-820

The registry is not available for public inspection and is not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act pursuant to title 30, chapter 4, except that the department may file a written request with the registry regarding a child for whom the department has an open case for child welfare services.

The department shall provide the names and addresses of all registrants who have filed a claim of parentage for the child in question upon written request of a child-placing agency or an attorney assisting in the adoption or termination of parental rights of a child. The written request may be filed with the registry before or after the birth of the child and must include the following:

  • The birth parent's name and, if known, their address and date of birth
  • If known, the child's date of birth and place of birth
  • If known, the date, county, and State of conception of the child