Changing a Child's Last Name Without The Other Parents Permission

As a general rule after divorce, the mother's or father's last name can no longer be changed. However, the law provides for certain exemptions. There are instances when one of the parents may change the child's last name without the permission of the other parent. We'll list them below.

When a Name Change for a Child Will Be Approved Without Consent

If you want to change your child's surname, there are some circumstances when a name change[1] petition will be approved without the consent of both parents:

  • In a situation where parental rights of one parent have been legally terminated, the other parent may change the child's last name without permission.
  • In a situation where the mother has sole physical custody, is not married, and where paternal rights have not been established, the mother may change the child's last name without permission.
  • In a situation where the petitioning parent has been unable to locate and notify the other parent, the petitioning parent might be able to change the child's name without permission.

When the Other Parent Does Not Consent

In Wisconsin, if one parent petitions to change a child's last name without the other parent, the petitioner must notify the other parent of the petition and give them an opportunity to object. If the non-petitioning parent objects, the petition can still be considered by the court. Whether the court approves the petition depends on the best interest of the child.

The best interest of the child is a broad standard which can include many factors, such as:

  • Length of time the child has had their last name
  • How a name change will affect the child and their future relationship with their parents
  • Need for identity with a new family unit
  • Wishes of the child (or minor) if they are old enough to express
  • Anything else the court deems significant

Establishing that a name change is in the best interest of a child is a difficult task. It will be especially difficult if one parent objects to the name change.

Some parents believe that if they have sole physical custody they should be able to petition (alone) for a name change. This is not the case. Custody is generally not a consideration in determining whether a name change is in the best interests of a child.

Best Scenario for Successful Petition of Name Change for a Child

A successful petition to change a child's last name is most likely when both parents agree to the change and petition together.

Sometimes it is not possible to gain the permission of the other parent. If that is the case, the most likely scenario for a successful petition of a child's name change without the consent of one parent is when that parent has effectively abandoned the child for a significant period.

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change my child's last name without father's consent?

If you want to change your child's surname, there are some circumstances when a name change petition will be approved without the consent of both parents:

  • In a situation where parental rights of one parent has been legally terminated, the other parent may change the child's last name without permission.
  • In a situation where the mother has sole physical custody, is not married, and where paternal rights have not been established, the mother may change the child's last name without permission.
  • In a situation where the petitioning parent has been unable to locate and notify the other parent, the petitioning parent might be able to change the child's name without permission.

How much does it cost to change a child's last name?

As of March 4, 2019 the filing fee related to changing a child's last name is $164.50 in most Wisconsin counties. This is only true if the child's name change is the only issue being heard in front of the court.

However, a parent can request a name change for a child as part of another paternity related issue. If a name change is brought as a part of another motion there is no additional charge.

How can I legally change my child's last name?

In nearly all cases the process for legally changing the last name of a child in the State of Wisconsin is started by filing a Petition for Name Change for Child. This can be done with the help of an attorney or by filling out and filing with the court CV-455, 05/19 Petition for Name Change for Minor Child under 14.

Do both parents have to agree to change a child's last name?

Generally, yes both parents need to agree to change a child's name. However there are several instances when both parents do not need to agree.

  • if the father has not been legally recognized as the father
  • one parent has legally abandoned the child
  • one parent's parental rights have been terminated

In these instances one parent has the right to change the child's name in accordance with Wisconsin Statutes 786.36-.37.