Being a parent is a huge step that many people want to take at some point in their lifetime. For many, the process is straightforward, and involves a marriage with their significant other and then settling down to raise their children. However, sometimes this is not the case, or is not possible for a couple.
In these other cases, there may be uncertainty about who the parents of the child are. Even if it is clear to the true mother and the true father of the child, it might not be clear in the eyes of the law. This can be important, because it is the law that provides the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Some of these rights and responsibilities are serious things, so the law does not want to impose them on someone who is not the child’s parent. Because of this, Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavits are available for men who want to prove that they are a child’s true father, and paternity suits are available to show that someone who is unwilling to come forward is a child’s father.
Once one of these methods is used to determine who a child’s parents are, both parents are endowed with certain legal rights and responsibilities with regard to their child.
The Parental Right to Physical Custody
Once a man or a woman has been legally deemed to be a child’s parent, they attain the physical right to custody of that child. This includes the right to reasonable visitation of a child, if they want to exercise it. The right to physical custody of a child allows a parent to be a part of their child’s life, by giving the parent the legal right to be present as the child grows up.
However, there are circumstances where a court can limit a parent’s right of physical custody. If the parent’s split up in a divorce or other separation, they may disagree on who gets to be with the child, and when they can visit. If a court has to step in to mediate the issue and resolve it, then they might have to limit the ability of either parent to physically be with their child, granting them only limited visitation rights. These rights, however, still have to be reasonable, within the circumstances.
The Parental Right of Legal Custody
While the right to physical custody of your child gives you the right to be physically present with your son or daughter, the right of legal custody gives you the right to exercise power over how he or she will be brought up.
Being recognized as a child’s legal parent gives you the ability to have some say in things that will have an impact on your child’s life, such as what school they will go to, or whether they will have a religious upbringing, or not. Having legal custody over a child also plays a huge part if your child should ever get hurt or sick and need medical care. Adults who do not have legal custody over a child are left unable to make potentially crucial decisions surrounding their health or wellbeing, and can also be left outside the decision-making process in other important aspects, as well.
The Parental Right to Pass Property Through Inheritance
When a parent dies without a will in South Carolina, our state’s intestacy law will step in and determine who gets what from the deceased parent’s estate. Most of the time, the property passes to the deceased person’s spouse and children. Obviously, this cannot happen if you are not legally recognized as a child’s mother or father. If you are not legally recognized as a child’s parent, then they will not receive anything from your estate.
Of course, mothers and fathers who are not legally recognized as a child’s parent can still make sure that their property passes to their child by making a will. However, sometimes this is unfeasible, making it important to be legally recognized as a child’s legal parent.
The Parental Right to Inherit in the Event of a Child’s Death
It is not something that any parent, whether legally recognized or not, likes to think about. However, accidents and catastrophes happen in life that can take the life of a child. In these cases, there may be legal actions that can be made to get compensation for the child’s death. However, only certain people are allowed to bring them on behalf of their child, and only certain people are allowed to benefit from them.
For example, in South Carolina, a wrongful death statute allows people to sue for the death of one of their loved ones. However, in order to be one of the people who can bring a wrongful death suit for a child, you have to be either that child’s legal mother or father. Adults who are not legally recognized as a parent of a child are left outside the circle of people who can be compensated for the loss of their child.
The Legal Rights of a Parent Are Wide-Reaching
There are numerous life events where it is helpful to be legally recognized as the parent of a child. Not only does it benefit you, as the child’s parent, to have this legal recognition, but it can also help your child, as well.
The South Carolina Family Law Attorneys at Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC
Going about establishing your status as a child’s parent can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. Nevertheless, it is an important step to take, if you want to make sure that you are able to be there for your child, should they ever need you. Voluntarily acknowledging your parental status by signing a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit, or filing a paternity suit to prove that someone is your child’s other legal parent are common ways to do this.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.