You may wish to change your name after a family law proceeding, such as a divorce or legal separation from your spouse. Reverting back to your maiden name, for example, might be the right fit as you start your new life. Whether or not you should change your child’s last name, however, depends on the circumstances.
Why Change Your Child’s Name?
What is right for some families may not be right for others. When considering changing your child’s last name after a divorce, think about your reasoning. If you want to have your child’s last name changed to spite your ex-spouse or as a form of revenge, it may not be what is best for your child. If your child would feel more comfortable sharing your last name and not your ex-spouse’s, however, or if your new family unit would be better off with a name change, it might be in your child’s best interest.
The Best Interests of the Child
While adults can change their names with little issue, you must receive permission from the courts to change the name of a minor in Colorado. A judge needs permission from both parents for the name change, or else the matter will require court intervention. As with other aspects involving family law, such as child custody, the courts base name-change decisions on one main standard: what is in the best interest of the child. This means what will maintain or improve the child’s quality of life or serve the child’s needs.
To make a determination on changing a child’s name, the courts will examine several factors, including:
The age of the child
How long the child has had his or her current name
Whether or not the child has become part of a new family unit (such as with a remarriage)
The strength of the child’s relationship with the other parent and whether a name change would harm this relationship
The child’s relationship with his or her siblings, half-siblings or stepsiblings
Potential psychological harm that may be caused by the name change
Potential benefits to changing the child’s name
The child’s wishes, if old enough and mature enough
The courts will analyze the current situation of the child as well as the parent who is petitioning for the name change. If it is determined that the change would maintain or improve the child’s current situation, the request will most likely be granted. If there is evidence that the name change could have negative repercussions on the child’s life, welfare, mental health or relationship with either parent, however, it may be denied.
What if One Parent Will Not Agree to a Name Change?
State law typically requires both parents to agree to the name change if you wish to avoid court intervention. If your spouse does not permit the change or wishes to stop it, you will need to notify that parent of your intent to change the name at least 30 days before your court date that is set to hear the issue. You must fill out the required forms and file a petition to change your child’s name. This action will be separate from your divorce, legal separation or custody case.
After you submit your court forms, you will need to serve your ex-spouse. This is an official process that you can do yourself or hire someone to perform for you. The child’s other parent will then fill out a Proof of Service form to show that the petition was received. The matter can then proceed to court, where a judge will hear arguments from both sides before making a decision. An experienced family law attorney can help you argue your case if your ex-spouse is objecting to your child’s name change.