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All About Child Support

Non-custodial and divorced fathers often have trouble navigating the legal and child support system. The following tips may help:

  • Establish paternity.
  • Attend every child support hearing regarding your case.
  • Pay something even when you can not pay the full amount.
  • Document payments and keep receipts of purchases requested by the mother and paid on your child's behalf.
  • Keep a record of dates and times when you did and did not work and the reasons why.
  • Keep copies of all documents from DSS, Family Court, a Clerk of Court, Attorney or the mother regarding child support and visitation.
  • Do not ignore official correspondence.
  • Contact DSS if you believe you are being harassed by a private child support collection agency.

Read more about navigating child support

What if I can not pay my child support?

Fathers are always encouraged to pay something toward their child support commitment to show a good faith effort even when they can not pay all that is owed. However, fathers who can not pay their child support orders in full are encouraged to immediately take steps to address their payment shortfall with Child Support Enforcement or Family Court before they fall too far behind. Child Support Enforcement or the Family Court may consider a reduction in child support if a significant change has occurred in a father's life circumstances. The information contained in this paragraph does not constitute legal advisement.

Read more:

Child support decrease forms (Pro Se modification)

Establishing paternity

 In South Carolina, when a child is born out-of-wedlock, the biological father has no legal rights or connection to the child until he establishes legal paternity. Fifty percent of children born in South Carolina are born to unmarried parents. When paternity has not been established:

  • The father's name will not be on the birth certificate
  • The father will have no visitation or custody rights
  • The father will have no legal say in decisions such as education, medical treatment, religion, etc.
  • The father will not have "the right to be notified" when/if his child is being adopted.


How is legal paternity established?

When a child is born within a legally recognized marriage, the male spouse of the mother is automatically designated as having legal paternity without any other action begin taken by the mother or her husband, regardless of whether or not he is the biological father. If the couple is unmarried or the biological father is someone other than the spouse of the mother, the biological father must complete the defined process to establish legal paternity. Read more to learn about establishing legal paternity.

How does establishing paternity help children?

Children benefit when paternity is established. Read to learn more about how children benefit when a biological father establishes paternity.

Does establishing paternity guarantee visitation

Legal visitation rights cannot be established without first establishing legal paternity. Often the biological father will form a personal relationship with his child without legal paternity or legal visitation rights. However, establishment of this relationship may depend solely on the discretion of the mother. If the mother decides to stop the father's visits, the biological father who has not established both legal paternity and legal visitation rights has no legal recourse. 

Obtaining Visitation

Spending regular, quality time with your child is an important part of being a responsible father. But, face it; sometimes your child's mother will not let you see the child. There are practical, legal steps that can be made to help improve and increase visitation opportunities.

  • If you have a strained relationship with the mother, seek help to improve your communication skills.
  • Pay your child support. It will be difficult to obtain visitation rights if you are not current on your child support payments.
  • Arrange to have a safe and child-friendly environment in which to spend time with your child.

In addition to practical steps, there are legal steps for obtaining visitation. Learn more about how to establish legal visitation.