What’s in a name? And what if you want to change it?

There are many reasons people want to change their names or the names of their children in South Carolina. Some may want to change their names after a divorce, while others may want to do so for religious reasons or simply because they dislike their current name. Regardless, name changes for both, children and adults, are primarily governed by Title 15, Chapter 49 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. The process varies depending on whether the subject of the name change is an adult or a minor.  

In order to change an adult’s name, the individual seeking relief must petition the family court and pay a filing fee. A series of documents must be attached to the petition, including, but not limited to, a SLED background check, a screening statement from DSS, and an affidavit pertaining to that person’s child support obligations. Once the petition is received and prior to the issuance of an order, the court may conduct a hearing on the petition and may require the petitioner to be present. S.C. Code Ann. §15- 49-10(A).

In order to change a minor’s name, the parent seeking relief must pay a filing fee to petition the family court and must also make the other parent a party to the action, unless that parent is (1) deceased, (2) has had their parental rights terminated, or (3) the family court waived their inclusion. For this process, a Guardian ad Litem must be appointed. Prior to the issuance of an order, the court will conduct a hearing, at which point the parent will have an opportunity to report evidence and the Guardian ad Litem will have an opportunity report his or her findings surrounding the name change. The court will then make a ruling based on whether it believes the name change to be in the best interest of the child. When making such a determination, the court will consider a variety of factors, including;

(1) the length of time that the child has used the present surname;

(2) the identification of the child as part of a family unit;

(3) the wishes of the parents;

(4) the reason for the proposed change;

(5) the difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience when the child  bears a surname different from the custodial parent;

(6) the preference of the child; and

(7) the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname.

Mazzone v. Miles, 341 S.C. 203, 210–11, 532 S.E.2d 890, 893–94 (Ct. App. 2000).

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Blog post by attorney Tatyana Ustimchuk. Click here to learn more about Tatyana.