How Does One Change One’s Own Name?
In South Carolina, the family courts handle all name change requests.
A person seeking to change one’s name to a maiden name or a former married name can do so as part of a divorce or separate maintenance proceeding and the process is simple and straightforward. So long as the family court judge does not have reason to believe that the name change will help a spouse avoid creditors, criminal prosecution, civil collection efforts, or the effects of being placed on a child abuse or sex offender registry, the court routinely grants such names changes as part of the divorce decree or final order of separate maintenance.
However, adults attempting to change their names at any other time go through the more complicated procedures of S.C. Code § 15-49-20(A). Per that subsection, before the court can grant such name change requests the petitioner must provide the family court the following information:
(1) the results of a fingerprint and criminal background check conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division;
(2) a screening statement from the Department of Social Services that indicates whether the person is listed on the department’s Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect. If the person is listed on the registry and the court grants the petition for a name change, the clerk of court must notify the department of the change so that the department can accurately reflect the change in the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect;
(3) an affidavit signed by the petitioner which provides whether the petitioner is under a court order to pay child support or alimony;
(4) a screening statement from the State Law Enforcement Division that indicates whether the person is listed on the division’s sex offender registry. If the person is listed on the registry and the court grants the petition for a name change, the clerk of court shall notify the division of the change so that the division can accurately reflect the change in the sex offender registry.
“Prior to issuing an order for a name change, the court may conduct a hearing on the petition and may order the petitioner to be present.” § 15-49-20(B). “Following the hearing and upon consideration of the petition, the reason contained in the petition, and other documentation before the court, the judge must determine and grant or refuse the name change as the judge considers proper, having a due regard to the true interest of the petitioner and protection of the public.” § 15-49-20(C). As noted above, the requirements of § 15-49-20(A), “do not apply to a person who wishes to resume her maiden name as a result of a domestic action filed in family court. A family court judge may authorize a name change for a person wishing to resume her maiden name in another order including, but not limited to, an order for separate support and maintenance or a final divorce decree.” § 15-49-20(J).