Changing a Child’s Name Following Divorce

Changing a Child’s Name Following Divorce

Traditionally, in the State of Georgia the courts respect that a father has a right to maintain the same name as his children so long that he is actively involved in a parental role for the children. For the most part today’s judges still uphold it is in a child’s best interest to be identified with their father and therefor maintain the father’s last name for the child absent persuasive facts and evidence. However, there are particular circumstances where this may not necessarily be true and the child’s name can be change from that of the fathers.

Best Interest Standard:
Anything in relation to child custody or a child’s activities must be in the child’s best interest in order to be decided upon in favor of that alteration by the legal system. Therefore, a child’s name may only be changed by a court petition in instances in which it is in the child’s best interest to have the last name changed. When determining if a child’s name shall be legally changed the court usually takes into account the following facts: “ 1) the length of time that the child has used the fathers last name, 2) the strength or the mother and child relationship, 3) the need for the child to identify with a new family unit in the event or remarriage.” When evaluating their decision a judge may also weight their decision on the basis of importance of the father and child relationship or a prospective father and child relationship.

Why Would Someone Want to Change Their Child’s Last Name?
A name change is generally only warranted in a small number of cases. Even if the father has had little contact and continuously refuses to be active in a child’s life then it may not qualify for the judge to issue a name change. A judge will generally only grant such a change if the child is being adopted into a new family unit and the legal biological father has abandoned all interest. Other rare cases may be if the last name is well known and associated with the father’s negative, criminal, or unscrupulous reputation and it is believed that the reputation attached to the name will create a bias against the child in school, work, or other community engagements. Even in the event that the father has a criminal reputation it may not prevent him from influencing the child’s last name; if the judge does not believe that the associations between the names will work against the child then the name will remain the same.

Will the Name Change Alter the Legal Rights of the Father?
No, a name change will not alter the legal rights of a father. Even a name change will not alter the legal recognition of identity of the biological identity between a parent and child. Even if a name change does occur it does not alter the ability of a parent to maintain visitation, to pay or pursue child support, or alter the child’s legal ability to obtain an inheritance from their father. Since a name change is dependent upon the evaluation of parental roles they are generally only issued in the event that a parent’s role in the child’s life is altered in pursuant to court order. Examples of some cases in which a name change would be granted would be in the event of: an award of sole custody with no visitation, abandonment, complete legal waive of all parental rights including visitation, or stepparent adoption.

If you believe that in your current family court matter that a legal name change for your child is warranted then call us at Coleman Legal Group, LLC to evaluate your case. Phone: 770-609-1247

Our divorce and family law attorneys at Coleman Legal Group, LLC have experience in a wide variety of family court matters, including legal name changes, and will be able to assist you in evaluating your case.

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