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Why does South Carolina require court proceedings and a guardian ad litem for parents to change a child’s name by agreement?

I occasionally get calls from folks wanting to change their child’s name.  Often both parents agree on the name change.  Yet South Carolina not only requires parents to obtain an order from the family court to change their child’s name, it also requires that a guardian ad litem be appointed for the child as part of any name change proceeding.  S.C. Code § 15-49-10(B).

For contested name changes (i.e., when the parents don’t agree) there’s a need for a court proceedings and (arguably) a guardian.   But for an uncontested name change these requirements are inexplicable.   At birth folks can give their child any name they want.  My wife was once providing social worker services for a mother who had just given birth to twins at MUSC.  That mother had allowed her four year old son to name them–which is why there are now African American twins running around South Carolina with the names Bubba and Mufasa.  Yet South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has no problem with this–parents have the right to name their children at birth.  Why then, if parents agree to change a child’s name, should they need the court’s permission to do this?  Moreover, why do they need to obtain and pay a guardian ad litem to investigate and recommend the name change to the court?

The folks who call me about changing their child’s name by consent are shocked when I quote them a retainer, but court proceedings are time consuming and guardians cost money.  Even many family law attorneys seem unaware of this guardian requirement.

I rarely do name changes because this code section has made the procedure so expensive.  If someone understands why South Carolina has these requirements for uncontested name changes a comment explaining the rationale would be appreciated.

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