Our name tells the story of our lives. We're born into our family's name, go through school and get a driver's license with it, and pass it on to our kids and beyond. It's a core part of who we are and, for legal purposes, important for proving who we are, getting our paycheck, doing our taxes, and so much more. So when it's time to change our names, there's a lot to sort out and people to inform.
We'll talk about how to change your name in South Carolina, including how to:
- Identify the right process for you;
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed; and
- Start using your new name.
1. Marriage, Divorce, or Petitioning a Court
It's easiest to change your name when tying the knot. Most women still take their husband's last name upon getting married, while plenty of other couples choose to take one person's name, combine their names, or make no changes. Since marital name changes are an old and common tradition, legally speaking it's easier to do as well.
South Carolina, like most states, allows people to change their last names when getting married. You can fill out the marriage license application form and, once married, use a copy of the issued marriage certificate as an official record of your name change. Get copies of this certificate for when you update your Social Security and driver's license.
Marriage name changes are easier, in part, because states issue marriage certificates and can simply add a name change to it. The same is true of divorce, but for a different reason. Divorce proceedings are legal proceedings, and including a name change in a divorce petition is frequently requested.
South Carolinians can generally resume a former last name, or the last name of a former spouse, when getting a divorce in the Palmetto State. The judge handling the divorce case can include the name change in the final separation or divorce decree – essentially it gets added onto the court's final order. This legally changes your name, so get copies of the decree.
Petitioning a Court
While there are many reasons to change a name, outside of marriage or divorce it'll require a separate legal process. South Carolina permits its residents to apply for change of name by petitioning a court. This is a more time-consuming process. Expect to:
- Fill out a petition for a change of name, including reasons for the name change;
- Undergo a criminal background check, disclosing any criminal convictions;
- Submit documentation of any child support obligations, or alimony orders;
- Sign a sworn affidavit as to the truth of matters included in the petition; and
- Go before a judge and make your case for changing your name.
There are some (obvious) cases where a name change won't be allowed. You can't change your name for fraudulent or illegal purposes, to avoid being sued, to get out of paying debts or taxes, or to skimp out on child or spousal support. Knowingly and willfully falsifying your affidavit to hide criminal convictions can bring criminal charges. A judge will consider your petition and, if you have a hearing, may ask questions about the desired name change. Answer truthfully. Weighing your true interest and considering the public's protection is the judge's job.
If the court grants your petition, it'll issue an order changing your name. Copies of that order will be necessary to change your name on your ID, with government agencies, and banks and insurance companies.
2. Update Your Social Security Card and Driver's License
Use copies of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order to change your official papers. Both your local Social Security Office and the South Carolina DMV need to see one of those forms before re-issuing a Social Security Card and driver's license in your new name.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Start using your new name once it's changed (consistently using it avoids any whiff of fraud). Tell your family, friends, neighbors, employers, bank, insurance company, etc. Make it widely known. Don't forget to update your email and social media accounts.
Get the Forms You Need in South Carolina
A name change requires paperwork, legal research, and considerable patience. Hiring an attorney to handle it can, on the other hand, be expensive. The good news is that you don't need to do either. FindLaw has simplified the name change process for you. Consider using our South Carolina name change forms.