Changing a Child’s Name

One of the more frequent calls I receive is from a parent wanting to change their child’s name. In the majority of cases a parent wants to change a child’s last name. By the time the potential client calls me, she is usually confused as to why she has been referred to lawyer to deal with a name change.

There is a misconception that a child, or an adult for that matter, can have their name changed by simply filling out a form. For better or worse, in South Carolina an individual who seeks a name change, whether that is an adult who wants to change their name or a parent or guardian who wants to change their child’s name, must file an action in the Family Court.

In the case of a parent or guardian who wants to change a child’s name, a Guardian ad Litem must be appointed to investigate the potential name change and report to the Family Court whether or not the Guardian ad Litem believes the name change is in the best interest of the child.

According to South Carolina Code Section 15-49-10(B) a parent may petition the Family Court to have their child’s name changed. If the Family Court finds that the name change is in the best interest of the minor child, the court must grant the petition. S.C. Code Section 15-49-10(B).

The Court primarily looks at nine different factors to determine whether the name change is in the best interest of the child: (1) the length of time that the child has used the present surname; (2) the effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child’s relationship with each parent; (3) the identification of the child as part of a family unit; (4) the wishes of the parents; (5) the stated reason for the proposed change; (6) the motive of the parents and the possibility that the use of a different name will cause insecurity or a lack of identity; (7) the difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience when the child bears a surname different from the custodial parent; (8) the preference of the child if the child is of an age and maturity to express a meaningful preference; and (9) the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname. Mazzone v. Miles, 341 S.C. 203, 210, 532 S.E.2d 890, 893 (Ct. App. 2000).


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