If the biological parents are in agreement to change the name of a child, it is considered uncontested, and the name change will typically be granted. However, the Court still requires the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem to represent the child’s interests, which results in additional cost.
If the parents are not in agreement to change a child’s name, for example, an unwed mother gives the child her surname and father is seeking to have the name changed to his surname, then the matter is contested.
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).As indicated above, in cases in which a child’s name is being changed, the Court requires the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, which is a neutral third party, usually an attorney, to represent the child’s interests.This person will typically conduct an independent investigation and report back to the Court on the issues at hand.The Court will allocate the fee of the Guardian between the parties if contested