Whether due to separation, divorce, abandonment, or adoption, some legal guardians and parents desire to change their minor child’s name. The process itself sounds simple enough and for most people, it is a matter of filling out and filing proper paperwork. However, New York state law requires that in the case of a minor child, both parents must consent to a legal name change. What’s more, the courts in New York State typically only grant name changes when presented with a solid reason to do so.
Why change your child’s last name?
Typical reasons a parent wishes to change their child’s last name include: divorce, domestic abuse, adoption or abandonment/neglect. For example, a single mother is raising her child and paternity was never legally established when the child was born. Yet, the biological child has returned to their lives and demands that the child carry his name. If the mother is agreeable, a paternity agreement can be signed by both parties to add the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate—at which time the child can legally take and use the father’s last name and/or a combination of that and his or her current last name.
Where this situation changes is in instances when one of the two parents does not agree to the name change. Most frequently, these instances occur in divorce proceedings where biological or adopted children have resulted from the union, and the parents are at odds with one another. Or, perhaps a father/mother is abusive or has addiction issues and the custodial parent wishes to protect the child by modifying their identity through a last name change.
To avoid or preempt legal entanglements, we’ve seen single parents simply begin using a different last name for their child assuming that usage alone will make the new name legal. Unfortunately, most schools and government agencies require that a minor child use the name on his or her birth certificate. Should those names not match, a problem for the parent now exists. Additionally, if the uninvolved or unknowing parent becomes privy to the informal name change, usage of it can also legally be ceased.
In these rare, more complex name change circumstances, the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Russell I. Marnell can assist by not only outlining the legalities, but filing of appropriate paperwork—even if an appeal to the State Supreme Court with a petition for name change is warranted.
As no two people are alike, neither are any two families, or legal matters involving family situations
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