Our firm frequently helps clients with issues concerning their children's names. Unmarried parents often want to change the child's birth name – whether to the Father's surname or to the Mother's surname. Married parents sometimes want to change the children's names during or after a divorce, especially if the marriage is of short duration. Teenagers will sometimes implore their custodial parent to ask the court change their name to that of a step-dad, especially if that person has been the “father figure” for most of the child's life and/or the biological father has not been active in the child's life.
When seeking to change a child's surname, South Carolina law requires consideration of the following nine factors to determine if changing a child's name is in the child's best interest:
- the length of time the child has used the present surname;
- the effect of the proposed 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 from 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 primary case in South Carolina on this issue is Mazzone v. Miles, 341 S.C. 203, 532 S.E.2d 890 (Ct.App. 2000).
Thanks to my law partner, Paul MacPhail, for providing this post.