South Carolina Responsible Father Registry helps dads protect rights

By Michael B. Smith

Men who want to make sure their parental rights are protected have an easy way to do that in the Palmetto State. It is called the South Carolina Responsible Father Registry, and it is free and convenient to use.

The registry is open to any man who has fathered a child with a woman to whom he is not married. Registration protects the father in the event there is an attempt to terminate his parental rights or if the child is placed for adoption.

It is important that fathers act quickly to protect their rights. The registration is not valid if it is filed after a petition to terminate parental rights or to adopt is filed in court. The good news is, dads do not have to wait until after the child is born to register. They can do so before the birth.

There is little downside to registering. There is no fee, and the State cannot use information on the registry to establish or enforce child support payments. Registered fathers can later revoke the registration if they come to believe that the child belongs to someone else. Information on the registry is not considered a public record either.

There are potential disadvantages, though, to failing to register. Fathers could lose their parental rights or their children can be placed for adoption without them knowing if they do not register. Even fathers who are not registered still have the right to fight in either situation. The problem is, they might not have the right to legal notification that the proceedings are taking place if they are not registered, which could prevent them from intervening in time.

Not every unmarried father needs to register, either. A father who is listed on the birth certificate already is protected, as is a man in cases where the mother has signed a sworn statement identifying him as the father. A man who lives with the mother and child and who openly identifies himself as the father also is protected.

Registration is simple. You can do so online at the South Carolina Department of Human Services web site or you can mail an application. Once you have registered, make sure you keep your information up to date, notifying DSS of any address changes. Failure to do so could result in revocation of notification rights.

Michael B. Smith is a partner with Morton & Gettys LLC in Rock Hill, South Carolina. His practice includes family law and family law mediation. You can reach him at 803.366.3426 or at

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