Charleston SC family lawyers are called upon to assist our clients in having their names changed in three different situations:
1. Having a child’s name changed.
The most common scenario in which a parent may wish to change a child’s name is when the child shares a name with a parent who has been entirely absent from the child’s life. The child may feel that he or she is different or apart from close family members, siblings, and the like as a result of not sharing a common surname. Changing the child’s name can serve to strengthen those family bonds and give the child a deeper sense of belonging to his or her extended family. In cases such as these, there are a couple of ways in which Charleston SC family lawyers can help have the child’s name changed.
First, if the both parents of the child’s parents will consent in writing to the name change, the courts will almost certainly grant the petition for a name change. It is always best to at least explore the option of obtaining the non-custodial parent’s consent, as this will inevitably reduce the time and expense of the name change action.
Second, if both parents will not consent, the custodial parent can petition for the family court to grant a name change for the child over the non-custodial parent’s objection. The parent requesting the name change will have the burden of proving to the court that the name change is in the child’s best interests. In most circumstances, this will require proof that the name change serves a legitimate purpose (i.e., to solidify family bonds rather than simply to marginalize or spite the non-custodial parent), and, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity, that the child also wishes to have his name changed. Your Charleston SC family lawyer will ask the court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate the matter and issue a factual report to the court before it is set for a final hearing. As in any case in which a Guardian ad Litem is involved, their report will be instrumental in achieving the desired results.
2. Having an adult’s name changed.
Adults have a variety of reasons for petitioning the courts to change their name. In the years following 9/11, we helped a number of people correct their legal names to make sure their drivers license and passport names matched one another, so they could efficiently travel again. We have helped adults change their name to a stepparent’s name, as a way of honoring that stepparent’s role in their lives. Sometimes our clients don’t wish to resume the use of their maiden name when they get divorced, for professional reasons or parental reasons, but change their minds later in life. And, of course, we have helped clients change their names for no reason at all other than simply wanting a new name.
The statute governing adult name changes is very clear on the method for doing so. Charleston SC family lawyers can assist you in drafting and filing the proper petition, as well as collecting all of the required documents: a) a fingerprint and criminal background check from SLED, along with a certification that the petitioner is not a registered sex offender; b) a certification from DSS that the petitioner is not on any central registry of child abusers; and c) an affidavit from the petitioner that he or she owes no child support or alimony under his or her current name. Inclusion on any of these lists or having a criminal record will not necessarily prevent a name change, but will require substantially more effort and documentation to complete.
Once these documents are assembled and filed, the court may or may not require a hearing to be conducted. In any event, assuming that all of the documents are in order, and assuming the court agrees that the request for a name change is being made for personal reasons and not for purposes of hiding or creating a new identity, your Charleston SC family lawyer will submit a proposed order to the court for signature granting the requested name change.
3. Changing your name at the time of a divorce.
Women frequently desire to return to the use of their maiden name as part of finalizing a divorce. If this is your desire, you must let your Charleston SC family lawyer know in advance; once the divorce is finalized without a name change request you will lose your opportunity to change your name without going through the steps listed in #2.
Women are entitled to the resumption of their maiden name upon proper request and upon credible testimony regarding some of the items listed in #2, above. Your Charleston SC family lawyer will lead you through the required testimony to accomplish this name change at your final hearing. The certified documents otherwise required to get a name change aren’t required at the time of divorce, your testimony will suffice.
If our Charleston SC family lawyers can help you or a loved one with a name change or any other legal matter, please feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.