Legal Name Change in South Carolina

namechangeinscSo you are wanting to change your name and you want to know how to change your name or what to expect if you are meeting with an attorney about legally changing your name.  Well, here are the steps that will be required when you want to change your name in South Carolina. Legal name changes are governed by South Carolina Code Section 15-49-10.

Before a name change petition can be filed with the Family Court, you must take care of some administrative things.  First you have to request a name change kit from the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).  This kit will include information on ordering a background check and a fingerprint card.  You should go to a local law enforcement office to get fingerprinted.  That fingerprint card should be sent in with the background check form along with a check for $25.00.  A few days later you will receive a copy of the background check from SLED.

You must also obtain a screening statement from the Department of Social Services stating that you are not on any child abuse or neglect registries.  There is an $8.00 charge for this statement.  You will need to fill out a form and mail the form and payment in and several days later you will receive that report.

You should also get verification that you are not on the State Sexual Offender Registry.

After that, you or your attorney will file a petition for name change with the Family Court asking for the legal name change.  From there you will most likely have a hearing where you have to testify before the judge about the reason you are seeking a name change.  The statute does not say that a hearing is absolutely required, so to me that leaves it up to the discretion of the judge.  I have seen it go both ways, where a judge signs a name change order without a hearing and other times where the judge requires a hearing.

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  2. Tracy in SC says:

    I notice it says that subsection (B) does not apply to a person seeking to return to the person’s maiden name. I’m hearing it both ways. Do I need the fee and SLED, etc?

    • Hi Tracy,

      If you are seeking to change your name while going through a divorce or separate maintenance action then you do not normally have to go through all of the steps like the SLED background check and sex offender registry check. This usually only applies when you are only filing an action to change your name.

  3. Brandy says:

    Just wondering what the steps would be in changing the last name of your children? Their father has lost all rights to them.

  4. What if you just want to add a legal middle name???

  5. What if you want to change your child’s middle name only?

  6. I live outside the country, I have been for almost the last 15 years, I am curently working for the DEA. I will be finishing up soon and I want to change my name to just start over, the DEA says that I don’t need to but for me I would just feel more comfortable. I want to do it before I get back just because I don’t want any trace of my old name coming back. How can I do this using my sisters address in the US. Would the finger prints be able to be done by the DEA. Would I be able to give a power of aturny to somone to be present at trial?

    • Gov employee says:

      Sorry but there is always a trace of the old name tied to the new name. All of your gov records IRS and SS records are noted.

  7. My sons father pays court ordered child support but has nothing to do with him other than that. The guy that I am going to marry next year has been in his life since day one and we want to change my sons last name to his but not adopt him because we want his biological father to continue to pay court ordered child support. Can we do this? If so how and what do we have to do? Oh and my son carries my last name currently.

    • You are getting remarried, and still want to soak the ex for child support? I pity the chump who married you.

      • Anonymous says:

        What a stupid thing to say. He MADE the child, of course he should pay his child support. A real man would want to anyway!

  8. If I am wanting to change a Child’s name do I still have to get the kit and go to SLED? My son’s father is being held in prison for a federal offense in NC and the child has the same last name as him. I have full custody and the father has no rights to the child. I want to change his last name to mine. What is needed to do this?

  9. I just want to change the suffix of my name, for example say my name was John Smith III but my birth certificate has the name as John Smith Jr, which would be my fathers name. My Son is John Smith 4, so i would like my legal name to be John Smith 3. Do I still have to go through all the same hoops, I am guessing the answer is yes.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your question. I’m afraid you are going to have to go through the same process as if you were changing your entire name.

      Tripp

  10. Hi Tripp,
    Let me add my thanks for this information. If I may ask one more question; how does one apply for the name change kit from SLED? Also, for a simple last name change for an adult (not going back to a maiden name, but rather changing surname to a maternal family name) how much would your firm charge and what would be the time frame? Again, thanks so much.

  11. ok how long after filing for a petition how long does it take for you to go to the hearing

    • The time for the hearing can vary from county to county depending on the court’s backlog of cases. Generally, it will take between several weeks to several months (depending on the county).

  12. What if you are gay and getting legally married in another state? What steps would you have to go through to change your last name? Thanks!

    • Hi Pamela,

      If you are a legal resident of SC, then the process to change your name is going to be the same as outlined in the post (including the background checks). Usually, when you get married, the name change will be done with the marriage license, but since the SC Code does not recognize same-sex marriages, I doubt you will be able to use your marriage license in SC to change your name.

      Tripp

      • Thank you for the information. If a same sex couple does get married in another state will a judge allow them to change their names if they follow the above procedure?

  13. My husband and I entered a marriage contract in 2010, which is also known as Common Law Marriage. This is still legal in South Carolina, but we are having a hard time getting the agencies to assist me with changing my name to my husband’s. According to the statute, a clerk is supposed to keep a record of such marriages, but when I called that office in Lexington, they did not have any idea what I was talking about. They use as an excuse their inability to interpret the law, but the statute spells it out clear enough concerning Common Law Marriage. Everyone I spoke to from the DHHS, to Family Court, to Court of Common Pleas are under the impression that a marriage license is what we need. It was disappointing to find our tax dollars paying people that do not know how to do their jobs. Please help, I just want my husband’s last name. We have a child together and our friends, family and church are aware of our union for the last two years. Marriage licenses are silly and originally used for couples that wanted interracial marriage. What is wrong with the American people today? We get a license to drive cars, not to be with people we love (my quote). Should we sue for costs if having to go through the long and drawn out name change process and for the agencies to apologize for the way they handled my phone calls? Also, we do not have money to pay a lawyer to correct those that do not know their job descriptions. What should we do? Thanks.

  14. What if you kept your married last name to have the same last name as your child, but more than 10 yrs. after your divorce you want to change your last name back to your maiden name, however it is not specified in the divorce papers whether you could change it back or not. Would you still have to go through all of the steps listed above? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Marissa,

      Since the name change was not done as part of the divorce action you will have to go through the same process outlined in the post…getting background checks and filing a petition for a name change.

      Thanks,

      Tripp

  15. Trip,

    I am by no stretch of the imagination an interpreter of the law but I was wondering what it meant by this part of the name change law in SC:

    SECTION 15-49-10. Application for change of name.

    (A) A person who desires to change his name may petition, in writing, a family court judge in the appropriate circuit, setting forth the reason for the change, his age, his place of residence and birth, and the name by which he desires to be known.

    Is this saying one can legally change his or her place or birth from one city to another (e.g. Charleston, SC to New Haven, CT)?

    • Hi Mike,
      That provision you referenced is stating the requirements for a name change petition, not that you can change the information such as birth city, etc. So, to change your name you must provide that information to the Family Court by way of a petition, but the only thing changing will be the name.

      Tripp

  16. How does it cost and what do I have to do to change the last name of a child who has my last name but is not my child

  17. How do I go about obtaining a name change kit from the SLED?

    • You can visit a local SLED office in your county or you can call SLED in Columbia for more information. The “kit” is really just the form to request the criminal background check and the finger print card. You will get fingerprinted at a local law enforcement center, complete the background check information and return both items with a check for $25 and a pre-paid envelope to SLED to complete the background check for you. Once they have completed the check they will return the background check to you.

  18. Tripp,

    My husband and I were married more than 20 years ago. I kept my name at the time for business reasons. I am now a “little old retired lady” and would like to finally take my husband’s name. Do I have to do a background check, fingerprints, etc., or is the original marriage license and a completed application form sufficient???

    Thanks!

    • Hi Betsy,

      Thanks so much for your question. Here is what I would suggest you try: if your marriage license was completed such that you would take your husband’s name then you can try to take that down to Social Security and the DMV to work on getting your name changed. I would probably try that first before you invest in the legal fees for a name change. That may not work since 20 years have passed and because the DMV regularly requires a court order before they will change a name on a drivers license or ID.

      If you run into a dead-end at the DMV, then I’m afraid you will be stuck needing to go through the name change process including the background checks and finger prints.

      Best of luck!

      Tripp

  19. Carol Frome says:

    Hi Tripp,

    In 1988, the divorce from my first husband was finalized. At that time, I changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name. I have my birth certificate that states that her maiden name was Frome, I have my social security card, my NYS driver’s license, my SC voter registration, a local home address (five years, now), 25 years worth of federal and state tax returns, divorce records, and a SC marriage license that all I say I am Carol Frome. I have failed more than once to get my driver’s license here in SC because I did not take my husband’s name. If, on my current marriage SC license, I had taken my husband’s name, I would not have been denied a license. But because I kept my name, the very same document that would satisfactorily prove that I am Carol [husband's name] is not good enough to prove I am Carol Frome. What to do?

  20. Hi Tripp,

    Thank you for the wealth of information of this subject. I was wondering if you could provide a ballpark figure of the court filing fees for a name change?

    Thanks,

    Kim

    • Typical costs for the name change process include a $150.00 filing fee for the new action in Family Court, a $25.00 background check fee to SLED, and an $8.00 registry check fee to DSS.

  21. Tripp,

    My first and last name was changed by my mother when I was 7. She also terminated my dads rights. Now I’m 25 and trying to get my birth name back. Is it the same process or what do I do.

    My email is twiztidreaper87@yahoo.com

    Ty

    • Hi there,
      The process to change your name back to your birth name will be the same as the process outlined in the post.

      Thanks,

      Tripp

      • Tripp,
        Maybe I missed seeing this, but where do you get the clearence for the sex offender registry?
        Also, this is GREAT infoamtion you have provided!

        • Hi Robin,

          Great to hear SLED is sending the kit over to you. The sex offender check will be noted by SLED on your background check results.

  22. SITUATION: My wife has recently discovered the last name on her birth certificate is not the same as she has been using all her life. Needless to say now she cannot get a new driver’s licence. She has all paperwork and social security number, but there is nothing to link her last name to the name on the birth certificate. Can you give me advise on the best way to handle this. Thank You

    • Hi Baron,

      Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to have a legal name change done through the family court where the court issues an order awarding the name change. That process is set out in this post, or I’m happy to schedule a time to meet to discuss representation for helping your wife with the process.

      Thanks,

      Tripp

  23. Tripp,
    I have a 17 yr old son who wants to change his name. His father has not been in the picture since he was 8 or 9 and child support stopped around then too. I have since moved to South Carolina and he wants to change it before the beginning of his Senior Year for colleges/military etc. He is a “Jr.” , his father we have found is an ex-criminial now and my son wishes not to be associated with him or his name. Can we do that with out trying to find in his dad is living or dead? We don’t know where he may be or what state he may be in at this time. Does he have to go through SLED and all that as well? What steps does he have to take or must I petition the court of his behalf or should he wait until his 18th birthday?

  24. Tripp,

    This is such a helpful post. Once married, I want to keep my maiden name and change the format to combine my current first and middle to just my first name. For example, Mary Ann Smith would become Mary Ann Smith Jones with Mary Ann making up the new first name, Smith becoming the middle name and Jones as the new last name. Can this be done without going through the process outlined in the post? Or does a petition need to be filed because my entire name would change? Thanks!

    • Hi Marlow,
      Thanks for your question. I don’t think I know the answer conclusively, but since you are not changing your name to something completely different and since it is incident to a marriage, I would try to go the normal route of changing it on the marriage license at the time of your marriage.

      Hope that helps and congratulations on the upcoming marriage!

      Tripp

  25. To make a long story short. In 1995, at the age of 17, I married AH and had a baby. I divorced him 5 years later because he wasn’t around. In 2003, I married HF and had my 2nd child. My oldest child who is now 17.5 years old has been raised by HF since he was 5. AH had been a small part of his life on and off during this time up until 2 years ago when he claimed he had a paternity test done that proved he wasn’t his bio dad. I have not seen the test. Since December 2011, AH hasn’t had anything to do with my oldest child except a phone call here and there. He completely cut communication with him December 2012. My oldest child now 17.5 years old has asked could he change his last name to his step father’s last name since he claims him and has raised him since he was 5 years old. Can he do this without AH’s consent when he turns 18? Is so, how?

  26. Michelle says:

    I would like to go through a legal name change because for personal reasons I would like for my first name to be my middle name and for my middle name to become my first name. I have all of my paperwork but I am a little confused about the order of name change form. I am not sure if I file this with all of the other forms or is this something I file at a later date.

    • Hi Michelle,

      The order is signed by the family court judge at the conclusion of your hearing if the judge approves your name change.

      Tripp

      • Michelle says:

        Thank you so much for responding to me so quickly. Is the order of name change a form I have to file with the court? If so, when? Is the order a form that the judge will sign and give to me without me having to file it? I’m asking because I received a name change order form with my name change packet from the family court and I really don’t know what to do with it.

  27. Anonymous says:

    the outline below I do understand , My question is Can I get a petition the court myself or do I have to have an attorney to do this process ? I called the family court here in york county and the lady I spoke with said its not for “regular people to do ” and said that its easier for an attorney to file everything because they already know the process… I am trying to do this myself on a limited budget as I am on disability and trying to get a legal name change to get away from an abuser? any suggestions , please help .. I have already done all of the actions below, what do I do next ? ““““““`
    Typical costs for the name change process include a $150.00 filing fee for the new action in Family Court, a $25.00 background check fee to SLED, and an $8.00 registry check fee to DSS.

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  32. I have been divorced for 3 years and have decided to go back to my maiden name. We are going to be going back to mediation and most probably court for custody/child support reasons – is there any way that the name change can be included as a part of this kind of court action or do I need to file it completely separately?

    • Hi Dawn,
      Thanks for your question. I think this would need to be filed as a separate action. This is something that can be taken care of rather quickly and will be cleaner to have a separate order with the name change rather than have it included in your custody/support modification case.

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  34. Have filed a petition for a name change in the Beaufort County Family Court. I have submitted all the proper paperwork. Can you tell me how long it will take for the judge to act on this petition. I am trying to get a SC driver’s license after retiring here from New Hampshire. When I married my husband 35 years ago, I kept my maiden name. A few years later I hyphenated my last name to include my husband’s surname. My New Hampshire license, Social Security Card and all assets are under that hyphenated name. South Carolina requires a legal document showing a women’s name change, which I do not have, in order to obtain a driver’s license.

    • Hi Sue,

      Thanks for your comment. When you say you have filed all of the proper paperwork, I assume that means you have filed your petition and all of the background check documents received from DSS and SLED. The next step will be to prepare the Order awarding the name change and requesting a hearing. You can download the hearing request form from the SC Courts website at: http://www.sccourts.org/forms/word/SCCA400.08SRL-DIV.dot

      You will complete this form and submit it to the Clerk’s Office at the Family Court in Beaufort County. Once you have submitted your hearing request, the hearing will be scheduled and they will call to notify you of the date/time of your hearing or mail your hearing notice to you. At that time you will go before the judge and he will decide if you can change your name or not – depending on whether you have filed bankruptcy, are trying to avoid debts or prosecution, are under and obligation to pay child support or alimony, have been convicted of a crime, etc.

      Typically, you must prepare the proposed order for the name change and bring it with you to this hearing, and unfortunately, there is no form I can link you to online.

      I hope this helps!

      Tripp Atkins

      • Thanks for your reply. I was given a packet of material to complete from the Beaufort Family Court, which included an Order to be filled out. I did all the background checks and attached to material which I returned to the Clerk’s office last Friday with filing fee. I was given a case number and was told I would not have to appear in court and that I should hear something in a couple of days. I have called the court and was told the Judge has not looked at the Petition yet. We have never filed for bankruptcy and I have no criminal record, no outstanding debts, never had children and am still married to my husband. Would the Court notify me if more documentation is needed?

        Thanks for your help.

        • I suspect the Court will call you if they have any questions or need additional information and if the judge really had an important question he/she felt like needed to be answered they may schedule a short hearing, but it doesn’t sound like they are requiring that. The Courts are in chambers the next two weeks, and I assume the judges are taking a nice holiday break, so I would not expect to hear back until after the new year when the court’s normal schedule picks up.

          • Thanks for your quick reply, it has been very helpful. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Holiday Season.

            Susan

  35. Tripp,
    Thank you for all of the helpful information. I was married just over a year ago and have put off changing my name because every time I try, I end up hitting roadblocks. I have always been called by middle name, thus, once I was married, I wanted to drop my first name all together. I have the court packet completed and I’ve been fingerprinted. When I visited Vital Records to receive a copy of my birth certificate, they informed me that if I legally change my name and drop my first name, that my birth certificate would change and would reflect my new legal name (essentially I would be born with my Husband’s last name). This seems very odd. Is this true? I can’t really understand why they would completely change a birth certificate since it should reflect your name at birth. I’ve been hesitant to move forward until I could find out a definite answer to this question. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Tiffany,

      I can understand your concern with the name change/birth certificate issue. I think the difference is the manner in which you are going about changing your name. The change by marriage is done through the marriage license, but a name change by the court will change everything. A typical name change by court order (when it is not related to a marriage) is generally done by someone who wants a completely new name and wants DHEC to change the birth certificate. But, it takes that individual sending a certified copy of the order to DHEC – Vital Records to get the birth certificate changed. In your case, you could simply send your order to Social Security and the DMV to update your name there and skip sending it in to DHEC.

      Tripp

  36. Tripp- thank you so much!! This was very helpful!

  37. David Hartley says:

    I was adopted when I was 10, I changed my name back to my birth name but now I want to go back to my adopted name I am married and have one child I need to know what I need to do to change our names

  38. Hi Tripp,

    My partner and I plan on getting married in NY in April. I would like to go ahead and start the last name change process so I can take her last name. I know my marriage license won’t have any bearing on the process here since SC doesn’t recognize same same marriage, but when petitioning the court, should I disclose this as the reason why I’m changing my last name or would a SC judge be more inclined to reject it because of that? SC is a conservative state, so I wasn’t sure how often they grant name change requests for same sex couples.

    • DP, Thanks so much for your question. I think your reason listed in the petition must be honest. I don’t think that the fact that it is a same-sex marriage would prohibit your name change as long as you meet all of the other qualifications. Many people change their name for no specific reason and it is allowed without question.

      You may an astute observation about the political leanings of our state. What I would point out is that SC Code §15-49-20(4)(c) states, “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.” My concerns would be that using this as your sole reason for the name change the judge would consider your reason against the public policy of the state since our state law and constitution are not in favor of same sex marriage at this time and may deny the request.

      All that to say, I don’t think the judge should consider this a reason not to allow your marriage, but some very conservative judge may be able to find shelter for their decision in the code.

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  40. Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it. So in this case, would it be best to just say I would like to change my last name for “personal reasons” and not elaborate further? Would that be sufficient or would a judge probe me to explain further?

  41. jamal herrera says:

    trip,
    i wanted to see about changing my last name to honor the man who raised me but passed away who was not my biological father but keeping but keeping my bio parent last name as my middle. I was wondering would that be acceptable treason by the court to chnage my name. I hjate to go though the whole process just to be rejected.

  42. jamal herrera says:

    trip,
    i wanted to see about changing my last name to honor the man who raised me but passed away who was not my biological father but keeping but keeping my bio parent last name as my middle. I was wondering would that be acceptable treason by the court to chnage my name. I hate to go though the whole process just to be rejected.

    • Jamal, Thanks for your comment. I think this is a great reason for a name change and don’t see the reason as a barrier to wanting it changed if you meet all of the other requirements (e.g. you’re not in bankruptcy, on a no fly list, terrorist watch list, child abuse/neglect registry, sexual offender registry, and you have never been convicted of a felony).

      Tripp

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  44. I wish to change the spelling of my son’s first name on his birth certificate and ss card. His father waited until after I completed and submitted the paperwork for his birth certificate to specify how he wanted his name spelled. He stated he would get that change taken care of, so my son has grown up spelling his name the way his father wanted it spelled and not the way it appears on his legal documents. Each year since then, I have intended to take care of it myself since his father didn’t. However, I never proceeded due to being told that I would need an attorney. Now, my son is turning 10 this year and it is way past time to get this issue resolved. I only need the spelling changed by one letter. What steps should I take to get this taken care of?

    • Hi L.W.,
      Thanks for your question. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the process completely. In addition to filing the action in family court for a name change, when the person changing the name is a minor we also need to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent your son. But, the other requirements such as background checks, DSS registry check, etc. are not required. It also helps if the father will agree to this as well (though it is not necessarily required).

      Thanks,

      Tripp

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  49. Ashlyn Freeman says:

    Tripp, thank you for your post. I would like to drop my first name, having been called by my middle name my entire life. The hassle and aggravation from teachers, professors, the DMV, banks, doctors, employers, I’m simply over it. I have completed the petition for Change of Name of Adult, the Family Court Cover Sheet, the Request for Hearing document, I have requested SLED packet. I have mailed DSS $ and form. I have a notarized affidavit stating I am not under court order to pay child support or alimony. But for the life of me I cannot find a name change ORDER to give to the judge. I found one in NY, but not SC. Is there a simple format out there for the state of SC? My second and final question, I fear I already know the answer, am I allowed to legally change my last name back to my maiden name even though I am legally married, not separated or going through any such process? If you say yes, you’re hired to do all of the above for me! If you respond to this message, I say thank you in advance!

    • Hi Ashlyn,
      Thanks for your comment. The final order for a name change is not really a complicated document, but there is not a simple form available from the court that I know of. As long as you meet the requirements for changing your name (not a terrorist, you aren’t doing it to avoid debts, you aren’t under an obligation to pay support, not a sex offender, not on a child abuse registry, etc.) then you can change your first name or last name – married or single. If you would like to set up a time to discuss how I might be able to serve you, just fill out the form at http://www.upstatefamilylawblog.com/consult and someone from my team will contact you to set up a convenient time for us to meet. Thanks! Tripp

      • Ashlyn Freeman says:

        Thank you for your reply. I did leave a voicemail on your office machine a little earlier. I just completed the consultation request form. I look forward to talking with someone. Thank you again, have a great weekend!

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