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Changing A Child's Name After Divorce: Important Considerations

Divorce brings about all sorts of changes to the family dynamic, and unfortunately, children typically feel the brunt of these transitions. One subtle yet impactful change that children sometimes experience after a divorce is the changing of their last name. While the desire to change a child's name after divorce is neither right nor wrong, making this adjustment is not something that an individual can just do; there is a process that must be followed. 

Relationship Status

The court will examine the status of the relationship the child has with the other parent. For example, if the mother is requesting the change, the court will review the relationship with the father and child. 

The reason this step is performed is that the other parent always has a legal right to contest a name change request. In a case where the child and the other parent don't have a relationship or an unstable one, the court may be more apt to adhere to the request. However, in a scenario where the other parent is active and has a good relationship with the child, the court may be less willing to approve the change. 

Need Basis

A name change is a significant adjustment, as all sorts of permanent records will have to be updated to reflect this change. For this reason, the court will require that the parent requesting the change have a valid reason for doing so. A parent that merely is angry at their ex and wants to wash away as much of their existence as possible does not have a valid reason. 

While the threshold of approval is solely up to the court, a parent that has been accused of abuse or an older child who wants the change might serve as instances in which a judge would concur with a need to change the name. 

Paternity Status

The court might also examine the paternity of the child when they are reviewing a request. For example, if the child was born before the marriage and the paternity has not been confirmed, the mother of the child might be able to request the change, particularly if there are questions about the paternity. 

Without a confirmation of paternity, there is no legal proof that the child belongs to the father. However, if the child was born during the marriage, the court will deduce that the husband is the father of the child. In that case, the mother will have more of a challenge justifying the change. 

If you want to be successful with your change of name request for your child, it's essential you go about the process the correct way. As a name change is such a major life change, the court does not take these types of requests lightly. To improve your chance of success, it's helpful to partner with a family attorney who can assist you with this matter.