A parent who wishes to change his or her child's name must file a petition (a lawsuit) in family court. The parent must make the child's other parent a party to the lawsuit unless: (1) the other parent's parental rights have been terminated, (2) the other parent is deceased, or (3) the family court waives the inclusion of the other parent in the suit.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) will be appointed to represent the child, even if both parents agree to change the child's name. The family court will hold a hearing during which the GAL will report the findings of his or her investigation into the child's name change.
If the family court determines changing the child's name is in "the best interest of the child," the court will grant the petition. In determining whether the name change is in the best interest of the child, the family court may consider the following factors:
- The length of time the child used his or her present surname;
- The effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child's relationship with each parent;
- The identification of the child as part of a family unit;
- The wishes of each parent;
- The reason the petitioning parent states for the proposed change;
- The motive of the petitioning parent and the possibility the child's use of a different name will cause insecurity or a lack of identity;
- The difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment the child may experience if the child bears a surname different than that of the custodial parent;
- If the child is of age and maturity to express a meaningful preference, the child's preference; and
- The degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surnames.
The issue of a child’s name change in South Carolina can be a complex and may result in legal consequences. You should speak with an experienced South Carolina attorney regarding any child name change issues.
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.