Changing A Minor’s Name After Divorce
For some adults, changing names after a divorce is seen as part of the process, and is often handled as part of the divorce when the judge enters the final order. Cutting ties with a former spouse through a name change is also seen as a way to break completely from the spouse and start a new life, especially if the couple had no children. If a divorcing couple has children, changing the children’s name after the divorce is not as easy as changing a spouse’s name.
A parent may wish to change a child’s name for various reasons, including the fact that the children no longer have a relationship with the other parent, or that the other parent chose the child’s original name. Whatever the reason, the parent wishing to change the child’s name has to remember that a name change for a minor is not automatic and has to be permitted by a court in advance if the parents cannot agree.
If the parents of a minor child agree to change the child’s name, the parents complete a form that is included on the back of the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, when one parent is given primary custody of a child in a divorce, the child takes on the surname of that parent automatically.
For other name changes for a minor child, the parent wishing to change the child’s name must file a petition seeking the name change. The court will only allow a minor’s name to be changed if it is in the best interest of the child. Among the reasons a court can grant a petition for a name change for a minor is if there is a claim that the child would be negatively affected by being associated with a parent’s name. For example, if a parent has a criminal history and is known in the community for his criminal behavior, the court may permit a name change from a name associated with that parent as being in the best interest of the child.
The court can also look at the effect of the name change on the child’s relationship with both parents. If changing a child’s name would negatively affect the child’s relationship with a parent who is otherwise present in the child’s life, the court may refuse to permit the name change. In some cases, the court may also consider the child’s preference in the name change.
A parent can always informally change a child’s name at home and refer to the child by a nickname or a shorter form of the child’s legal name. In doing so, the parent may want to consider the child’s preferences, and how others address the child. If the divorce or separation is still recent, the child may not want another change in his life. The child will have an opportunity to change his own name when the child reaches the age of maturity.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you are going through a divorce in Pennsylvania, we can help you navigate the legal process and offer you advice on the issues that are likely to come up in your Pennsylvania divorce. For a consultation, contact Barbara Flum Stein & Associates in Media, Pennsylvania and serving Delaware County in all family law matters.