Can I Change Child's Last Name in Illinois?
Generally speaking, in the state of Illinois, once a child’s name is decided it is very hard to change after the fact. This is especially true when it’s done without the permission of both parents. That said, changing a child’s name might be considered in some special circumstances.
What Situations Allow For Changing a Child’s Name Without Consent in Illinois?
There are no specific circumstances required to petition for a child’s name change in Illinois. However, many parents believe that if they have sole custody they can petition to change the name without consent. This is not the case.
Also important to note, a name change can only be done by going to court. If a parent starts using a new name on school forms or medical forms without going to court, it’s not legally valid.
With that in mind, here are a few situations where people may want to change their child’s name without the other parent’s consent:
- In situations where the parents are unmarried and one parent is trying to establish paternity.
- In situations where a single parent is unmarried, parental rights aren’t established, and the other parent can’t be contacted.
- In situations where one spouse is abusive or absent.
Regardless, a court only considers a name change if it benefits the best interests of the child in a significant way. Even if a child is being teased for their name or you have a bad relationship with your ex, the court is highly unlikely to consider that as enough proof.
When the Other Parent Does Not Consent
When filing to change a child’s name with the court, the other parent must be notified unless letting them know would endanger the child’s safety. Even when you do not know where the other parent is, it’s still necessary to publish a notice to a local newspaper or send it to their last known address.
Once these steps are done, the court will consider the change based on the best interests of the child. In cases where parents don’t agree the law says that the court will consider the following:
- The wishes of the child's parents and any person acting as a parent who has physical custody of the child.
- The wishes of the child and the reasons for those wishes. The court may interview the child in chambers to ascertain the child's wishes with respect to the change of name. Counsel shall be present at the interview unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties. The court shall cause a court reporter to be present who shall make a complete record of the interview instantaneously to be part of the record in the case.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents or persons acting as parents who have physical custody of the child, step-parents, siblings, step-siblings, or any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest.
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community.
The Best-Case Scenario to Change a Child’s Last Name
In Illinois, family courts are generally reluctant to change a child’s last name unless their name is affecting their quality of life. This is what is meant when we talk about the best interests of the child.
Even then, the burden of proof needed is very high. Because of that, a name change is much more likely to be approved if both parents agree to it.
Obviously, there are cases where that’s not possible. To change a child’s name without consent, it’s much more likely to happen in cases where a parent has abandoned the family altogether.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I change my child’s name without informing the other parent?
You must notify the other parent when trying to change a child’s name. However, there are a few scenarios where notice may not be required:
If a mother has sole custody, is unmarried, and paternity is not established.
If parental rights have already been terminated for the other parent.
If notifying the other parent would put the child in danger.
How much does it cost?
Fees to change a child’s name in Illinois vary from county to county. In cases where a parent doesn’t consent, there may be additional fees. Some low-income people may qualify to have filing fees waived.
How can I legally change my child’s last name?
All name changes start by filing a Request for Name Change with the county where the child resides. This can be done by either you or your lawyer. You will then need to file additional forms and notices, depending on whether or not the other parent consents. Forms can be found online.
Do both parents have to agree to the name change?
A court is almost always more likely to grant a name change if both parents agree, but it is not necessary. As long as notice is given to the other parent, and the other parent has a chance to state their objections, then a name change can be made without consent.
At the end of the day, the court will always decide based on the best interests of the child.