Can I Change My Child's Name Without Consent?
Is A Divorce My Only Chance to Change a Child’s Last Name?
Marriage dissolution is not the only time that you can change your child’s name, but it is the best time, because such a move does not require the father’s direct consent when dealing with child custody. There are some other occasions as well, including:
- Standalone Name Change: The same rules apply in terms of best interests. However, the child’s father must receive notice of the action or the mother must convince the court that the father cannot be located.
- Stepparent Adoption: If the mother marries another man who wants to adopt her children, most judges will terminate the biological father’s rights, approve the adoption, and change the children’s names accordingly.
A name change is also possible in a direct adoption or re-adoption (foreign adoption) proceeding, sometimes without the father’s consent.
Grounds for Changing a Child’s Last Name in A Divorce
In most cases, divorcing women may change their surnames to their maiden names or a name that they previously used. Many women take advantage of this opportunity because, for them, the name change is a liberating experience that closes the book on a bad chapter in their lives; for other women, this step is just additional paperwork that is simply unnecessary.
The divorce judge will change the wife’s surname as described above if she made the request in good faith (e.g. not to evade creditors or frustrate law enforcement). Similarly, the judge will grant a minor name change if such alteration is in the best interest of the children. Generally, it is in the best interests of the children for everyone in the household to have the same last name.
This argument is no longer as convincing as it once was, due to the rise of blended and mixed families. Today, less than half of American children live in a “traditional” household which contains a married mother and father who are on their first marriage and their pure biological children, so different last names are much more common. Moreover, if the children are older, changing their name is quite an effort, given the multitude of school and other records that must be changed as well.
However, a husband wanting to fight a divorce name change must establish that the change is not in the children’s best interests, which is almost impossible to do.
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