When can a child’s last name be changed?

name changeIn the United States, forty-percent of children are born out-of-wedlock.  This statistic has been on the rise over time.  There are no real signs of that changing.  And, in fact, it is realistic to believe that more kids will be born out-of-wedlock than in wedlock before long.

In many of these instances, the child is given the last name of the mother versus the father.  Once child support or custody proceedings begin, the issue of whether the last name will remain that of the mother or be changed to that of the father becomes a real issue in family law cases.

Of course, if the child is giving the last name of the mother, and the father takes no action to change it, the last name will remain that of the mother.

But in cases where the father seeks to change the last name in a paternity action, what is the likelihood that a court would change the last name?  Obviously, the laws vary in each state and different judges have different viewpoints.

But generally speaking, where the father is actively involved and the child is not yet attending school, courts tend to look favorably on changing the last name to that of the father.  In increasing number of cases, courts may consider hyphenating the name as a compromise.  Regardless, the likelihood of success is usually pretty good (for a complete name change of hyphenation) where the minor child has not started kindergarten.

On the other hand, where the child has already began attending school, courts can tend to look negatively upon changing the child’s last name.  This is also true in cases where the father has a not been an active participant in the life of the child, is substantially behind in child support or does not have genuine motive for the name change.

These factors are in no way concrete and different factors can come into play.  However, it is certainly true that the sooner a father acts, the better his chances are of the child having his last name.

If you are interested in trying to change the last name of a minor child, Stange Law Firm, PC and their paternity attorneys can help.  You can call us at 1-855-805-0595.

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