(a) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) “Abandoned” shall have the same meaning as set forth in Code Section 15-11-2 .
(2) “Child” means an unemancipated individual who is under 18 years of age.
(3) “Family violence” shall have the same meaning as set forth in Code Section 19-13-1 .
(b) Any individual desirous of changing his or her name or the name of his or her child may present a petition to the superior court of the county of his or her residence. Such petition shall set forth fully and particularly the reasons why the name change is being requested. Such petition shall be verified by the petitioner.
(c)(1) When a name change is requested by a petitioner who alleges to be a victim of family violence, such petitioner may petition the court to file his or her petition to change his or her name under seal.
(2) If the court determines that the petitioner is a victim of family violence, the court may issue an order waiving the requirements of publication as set forth in subsection (d) of this Code section. If the court determines that such filing shall be allowed to proceed under seal and otherwise waives the other requirements of this Code section, it may hear and determine all of the matters raised in such petition and render a final judgment thereon.
(3) After issuing an order under paragraph (2) of this subsection, the court may later unseal a petition for name change or order the petitioner to file a redacted version of such petition for the public record.
(4) If the court determines that the petitioner is not a victim of family violence, the underlying petition for name change shall not be heard until this Code section has been complied with in full.
(5) The court shall retain all filings made under seal as part of the record.
(d) Except when an order has been issued as provided in paragraph (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section, within seven days of the filing of the petition, the petitioner shall cause a notice to be published once a week for four consecutive weeks in the legal organ of the county in which such petition is pending. The notice shall contain the name of the petitioner, the name of the individual whose name is to be changed if different from that of the petitioner, the new name desired, the court in which the petition is pending, the date on which the petition was filed, and the right of any interested or affected party to appear and file objections.
(e) If the petitioner seeks to change the name of his or her child, the written consent of his or her parent or parents if they are living and have not abandoned the child, or the written consent of the child's guardian if both parents are deceased or have abandoned the child, shall be filed with the petition.
(f) When a petition is seeking to change the name of a child, the parent or parents of the child shall be served with a copy of the petition. If the parent or parents reside within this state, service of the petition shall be made in person, provided that if the location or address of the parent is unknown, service of the petition on the parent shall be made by publication as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section. If the parent or parents reside outside this state, service of the petition on the parent or parents residing outside this state shall be made by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery if the address is known or by publication as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section if the address is not known.
(g) When a child resides with individuals other than his or her parent or parents, a copy of the petition shall be served upon such individuals in the same manner as service would be made on a parent.
(h) So long as a petition has not been heard and granted under paragraph (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section, after proof to the court of publication of the notice as required by subsection (d) of this Code section is made, if no objection was filed, the court shall proceed at chambers on such date as the court shall fix to hear and determine all matters raised by the petition and to render final judgment or decree thereon. Such hearing shall occur upon the expiration of:
(1) Thirty days from the filing of the petition if the individual whose name to be changed is an adult;
(2) Thirty days from the date of service upon the parent, parents, or guardian of a child whose name is to be changed if the parent, parents, or guardian reside within this state; or
(3) Sixty days from the date of service upon the parent, parents, or guardian of a child whose name is to be changed if either the parent, parents, or guardian reside outside the state and the petition is served by mail.
(i) For service required by this Code section, the clerk shall receive the fees prescribed in Code Section 15-6-77 .
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