Changing your child’s last name in child custody disputes after separation or divorce
In child custody disputes it is common to come across the issue of whether you should try to change the last name of your child. As a matter of tradition, the child is often given the father’s last name. However, both parents have the right to determine the name or last name of their child. Complications arise when the parents’ divorce or separate and one parent wants to change or add his or her last name to the child’s name.
When both parents agree to name change
If both parents agree the court will issue a decree upon joint request by both parents to change the child’s last name. The process may take several months.
When one parent does not object
Generally, the court will allow one parent to change the last name of the child if the other parent (after being properly notified of the petition for change) does not object to the name change request. Moreover, if one parent has abandoned the child then the abandoning parent will be unable to object to the request for change of last name. Thus, the court is likely to approve the request for change.
When one parent refuses to consent to change
When one parent wants to change the child’s last name, but the other parent disagrees, the court will decide about the name change request based on the best interest of the child. In determining what is in the best interest of the child the court will consider and balance the following factors:
The length of time the child has used the current last name
The length of time the child has been using the last name is important. This is because the more time the child has been using the current last name the more the last name is part of the child’s identity. Thus, the court may weight this factor against approving the request for change.
How the name change will affect the parent child relationship
Generally, the law presumes that the child should have a relationship with both parents. If changing the last name of the child strengths his or her bond with a parent the court may approve the request. Conversely, the parent objecting to the change may argue that his or her relationship with the child will be damaged. The court will analyze both sides and determine whether this factor weights in favor of approving the request.
The status and strength of the child’s relationship with each parent
The court will consider the strength of the parent-child relationship to determine whether it is in the best interest of the child to have his or her last name changed. If changing the last name weakens his or her relationship with one parent, then the court may find that this factor weights against approving the request.
The child’s need to identify with a new family unit by name
If the child is having a hard time identifying with a new family unit because the child has a different last name from the other family members the court may find that it is in the best interest of the child to have his or her last name changed.
The desire of the child who is old enough to express such desire
If the child is old enough to express his or her desire as to whether the request for change should be approved and the court deems that such desire seems rational, then the court is likely to consider the child’s desire in making a decision as to whether to approve the request for change.
Other facts the court finds important based on the specific case
Given that each case is unique, the court will consider common sense arguments made by each parent in determining whether to approve the request. For this reason, it is important for you to express your reasoning to the court clearly in writing and orally. In doing so, you can increase the chances of achieving your desired outcome.
Below are the number and name of the court forms you may need
Form Number & Name
- NC-100 |Petition for change of name
- NC-110 |Name and information about the person whose name is to be changed
- NC-120 |Order to show cause for change of name