As a mother, you may wish to change your child's last name (assuming they have their father's last name) under some circumstances. For example, you may petition for the name change after divorcing the child's father or after getting married to a different person. However, the court will not just take your word for it and agree to the name change; it will evaluate the petition before issuing a decision. Here are some of the things the court will consider in its decision:
How Long the Child Has Had the Name
The more the child has been using their father's name the more the court will be reluctant to change it. When it comes to issues affecting children, courts are usually reluctant to accept to upset a status quo as long as the existing circumstances have not been causing any harm to the child. Therefore, it might be difficult to change a teenager's name if the teenager has been using their father's name from day one than it would be to change a toddler's name.
The Need for the Name Change
You will also have to explain to the court why you want to change the child's last name. you may also be required to prove that the change won't affect the child's welfare or that it will help the child in one way or the other. For example, if you have remarried, then explaining that changing the child's name will help them integrate better into the new family may strengthen your position. However, your petition may not gain any traction if you just want to change the child's name out of spite for the other parent.
The Strength of the Parent-Child Relationship
The court will also evaluate your relationship with the child as well as the father's relationship with the child. A strong father-child relationship will make it difficult to change the child's last name because the court will wish to maintain the attachment; the government recognizes that a child benefits greatly by having a positive relationship with their parents. Here are some of the factors that may point to a strong father-child relationship:
- The father has been spending time with the child
- The father has been caring for the child's financial needs
- The father has been involved in the child's education
- The father has been taking care of the child when sick
You have your work cut out for you if you want to change a child's last name and their father doesn't agree with you. Consult a family law attorney to help you figure out a legal way to do it.