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Changing a child's name after divorce

Some New York residents who have resumed using their maiden name after divorce may wish to change their children's name as well. While this may be possible, it is not always allowed. In manyinstances, courts have ruled that if the father is providing support or upholding his paternal responsibilities, the child should retain his name. Today, more courts are deciding this based on whether the name change reflects what is best for the child.

In order to change the child's name, the mother must file a petition with the court. Judge's often weigh such factors as the length of time the child had the father's name as well as the bond between the child and his or her father. Alternately, the child's relationship with the mother is also considered. If the mother has remarried, changing the child's name may lend itself to the child's incorporation into the new family unit.

If the court agrees to change the child's name, this does not change the rights or responsibilities the paternal parent has. Such things as visitation or child support are left unchanged. In addition, the child retains the right to inherit from the father. If the mother has remarried after her divorce, the new husband may wish to adopt the child. In this case, the child's name may be changed. A stepparent adoption is dependent upon the court's approval.

In all aspects of a child's life following a divorce, the court makes decisions on what it perceives to be in the child's best interests. An attorney may help a parent provide the court with information that supports the parent's wish to change a child's name. The attorney may provide evidence showing the father's lack of support or failure to form a strong bond with the child.

Source: FindLaw, "Changing Your Name After Divorce", accessed on Jan. 20, 2015

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