Can You Change Your Child’s Surname After a Divorce?

Categories: Child Custody

Metuchen, NJ Family Law Attorneys - Romanowski Law Offices

After your divorce, it is not uncommon to want nothing to do with your ex-spouse. Perhaps the divorce proceeding was so grueling that hearing their name creates aggression. You have already made the decision to start using your maiden name immediately after the divorce; however you may wonder what you can do for children that share a surname with your ex-spouse.

If you and your ex-spouse cannot come to a decision regarding the name, then you will have to petition the courts for assistance. It is likely that neither of you will agree to changing your child’s name, but it is important to realize that New Jersey family courts have strict standards for these types of cases.

When petitioning the courts, one of two standards will apply to your case: one if you were married and the other if you were not legally married. Regardless of your situation, however, the courts will always rule in the best interest of the child.

Factors Used Regardless of Marriage or Not

Certain factors are used by family courts regardless if a legal marriage was present or not. These can include:

  • How long the child has used the surname — such as since birth or only a few months, etc.
  • If the child identifies themselves as part of the family.
  • The potential for embarrassment, discomfort, or anxiety the child may experience if they have a different name from the custodial parent.
  • If the child is old enough, their preference for their own surname.

When Parents Are Not Legally Married

Courts no longer favor the traditional bias of giving the legal father’s surname to the child in cases where the couple was not married. Instead, the courts favor the parent with sole legal or exercising sole physical custody. Therefore, the mother may be granted a request to change the child’s surname.

Factors Not Considered by New Jersey Courts

Even if the couple was married, there is no presumption of favor to either the mother or father. The courts instead use different considerations — such as the child’s preference, how long they have used and associated with that surname, etc. Regardless if one parent has sole legal or physical custody, the courts will not consider that when determining if a parent can legally change the surname for their children. This standard was established in 2012 when a case came before the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court.

Changing Your Child’s Surname – Speak with a Family Law Attorney

If you wish to change your child’s surname, speak with your divorce or custody attorney to explore your options. The attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices can assist you with your child’s name change during an expert consultation. Contact us online or call 732-603-8585 to schedule your appointment.