Custody as a Father in SC

A significant part of many divorces is determining the custody arrangement of the children involved. Although one might assume that South Carolina is a “Mother’s State”, there is a process in order to determine proper custody. This is based on the roles of the parents as well as the needs of the children. That means you can have custody as a father in South Carolina.

As noted in S.C. Code 63-5-30, Mothers and fathers have equal rights in the state of South Carolina.

The mother and father are the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are equally charged with the welfare and education of their minor children and the care and management of the estates of their minor children;  and the mother and father have equal power, rights, and duties, and neither parent has any right paramount to the right of the other concerning the custody of the minor or the control of the services or the earnings of the minor or any other matter affecting the minor.  Each parent, whether the custodial or noncustodial parent of the child, has equal access and the same right to obtain all educational records and medical records of their minor children and the right to participate in their children’s school activities unless prohibited by order of the court.  Neither parent shall forcibly take a child from the guardianship of the parent legally entitled to custody of the child.


If a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is granted custody unless the father establishes paternity, according to S.C. Code 63-17-20. 

Unless the court orders otherwise, the custody of an illegitimate child is solely in the natural mother unless the mother has relinquished her rights to the child.  If paternity has been acknowledged or adjudicated, the father may petition the court for rights of visitation or custody in a proceeding before the court apart from an action to establish paternity.

As a father, if your child was born out of wedlock you will need to take action in order to establish legal paternity and be awarded custody. Until this is done, fathers have no legal rights to their children. This means that the visitation schedule can depend solely on the discretion of the mother and the father will have no legal recourse. 


How to Establish Paternity Out of Wedlock 

  •     In-Hospital- By signing a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit, both the mother and father will agree on the paternity of the child at the time of the child’s birth. 
  •     After a Child’s Birth- Both parents may voluntarily establish paternity after the time of the child’s birth by completing the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit at DHEC in the county where the child was born. 


If the mother does not agree on the paternity of the child. You may need legal help. Contact us and our team will help guide you through the process.