After parents divorce, a father may not maintain a close relationship with the child. It may be that the parent who has assumed the parental responsibilities and spends all or most of the time with the child prefers that the child carry her name or that of a new spouse.
Can I Change My Child’s Name After a Divorce?
A parent may file a petition with the court to change the child’s name, which may be granted if it is in the child’s best interests. This is more likely if the mother and child have a strong relationship and the child did not carry the father’s name for very long or has not maintained contact with the child.
If a mother has remarried since divorcing the child’s father, she may argue that the child in her care should be allowed to share the name of the new family to strengthen the child’s self identity when the biological father is absent.
A judge will take a holistic view of the situation to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Considerations may include:
- the wishes of the child’s parents and any person acting as a parent who has physical custody of the child
- the wishes of the child
- the interaction and interrelationships of a child with the parent, persons acting as parents with physical custody of the child, step-parents, siblings, step siblings and the like
- the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and the larger community
The parent petitioning the court must meet the required burden proof showing clear and convincing evidence that the change is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
Father’s Rights in an Illinois Divorce
Of course the other parent has rights too. Even if there has been no contact between the parents or the estranged parent and the child, the distant parent must be given reasonable notice and the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed name change.
Sometimes to avoid the rigmarole, a custodial parent might forego the process of legally changing their child’s name and simply start using the mother’s surname or the new family name for the child on school or medical records. This may prove fruitless as courts have the power to prevent and undo these actions, which ultimately creates confusion for the child.
Illinois Step Parent Adoption
The best approach is to discuss your concerns with an experienced family law attorney. In some cases, instead of petitioning a court for a name change, a mother of a child who has remarried may want to consider a stepparent adoption. This often simple and cost effective adoption process serves the dual purpose of changing a child’s last name while offering inclusion into a new family.
Contact Our Libertyville Illinois Family Law Attorneys for Help
There are many different situations that play out after parents divorce and, of course, those who play an active role in their kid’s lives want what is best for them. If you have legal concerns regarding your children with regard to parenting time (child custody and visitation), parental responsibility (legal custody), child support, step parent adoption, fathers’ rights or other family law issues, contact the Libertyville, Illinois Law Offices Schlesinger & Strauss, LLC.