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Can I change my child’s last name as part of my divorce?

If you plan to go back to using your maiden name after divorce, you are able to legally make this change in the divorce process. Depending on your situation, it may make sense for you to change your child’s last name too. However, this cannot be done as part of your divorce.

Changing a child’s last name is its own legal process, which must be initiated separate from your divorce. It is important to know up front that the child’s father will have to be notified of the hearing. However, if he does not want your child’s name to be changed, his disapproval will not be the only factor a judge considers when deciding the outcome of your case.

What the name change process looks like

To begin the process of changing your child's name, you will need to complete the necessary paperwork and file it with the circuit clerk of court who will set your hearing date and time. You will then have to notify your child’s father of the name change petition.

If your child’s father agrees to the name change, he will need to sign the appropriate paperwork in front of a notary. However, if he does not agree, you must mail the required paperwork to his residence or last known residence. You may also need to publish a notice in a newspaper for three weeks.

Regardless of the other parent’s support, you will need to attend the name change hearing, bringing with you any papers related to your child’s name change. When you testify, you will be expected to explain why you believe the name change will be in your child’s best interest.

Before making a decision, the judge will consider:

  • The wishes of your child, parents and anyone that has physical custody of the child.
  • The relationship your child has with his or her parents.
  • Your child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community.

Name change cases for a child can be difficult to win, so it is very important to be certain the change is in the best interest of your child before considering this process. However, changing your child’s last name is sometimes an appropriate action, and the more informed you are about the process, the better you will be able to rise to any challenges presented by your situation.

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