Today's Question: Changing a child's name.
I am often asked if it is possible to change a child's name when they are still a minor. The answer is yes, but whether or not it is easy is another questions. If both biological parents are in agreement with this, and a guardian ad litem believes it is fine, then this is no problem. In an adoption situation, the name is always changed. But what about the situation where the mother had the child and gave the child her last name. The child is now 5 and the father wants the child to have his name, and they don't agree.
In South Carolina, the courts have adopted a nine-part test in looking at this situation. The court will consider the following:
(1) the length of time that the child has used the present surname; (2) the effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child’s relationship with each parent; (3) the identification of the child as part of a family unit; (4) the wishes of the parents; (5) the stated reason for the proposed change; (6) the motive of the parents and the possibility that the use of a different name will cause insecurity or a lack of identity; (7) the difficulty, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience when the child bears a surname different from the custodial parent; (8) the preference of the child if the child is of an age and maturity to express a meaningful preference; and (9) the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname.
As you can imagine, this is a complicated test. Each situation is a case by case basis. I have generally found that if a child is over 12 and wants to change his name, the judge will generally grant it. But each case is unique, and it can be challenging.
If you have more questions of this, feel free to contact me.