When parents divorce, child custody is one of the biggest issues to hash out during the process. Living arrangements are a huge part of this, but so is laying out which parent has decision-making power regarding the kids. One question that comes up involves changing a child’s last name.
In most cases, both parents share the power to make choices about the child’s life. It is possible, however, for the court to name one parent the sole decision-maker. This includes school, medical care, and even whether to raise the child in a certain religion. But what are the limits of this? Is it all-encompassing? Can you go so far as to change your child’s last name if you want?
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, regularly joins the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he answers family law questions from listeners. One recent caller divorced her husband and received full custody of their son. This includes sole decision-making power. She wants to change his name from her ex’s to her own. Can she? Is it just that simple or is there more to the situation?
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Listen to the answer below:
Caller: “I was recently divorced and currently have full custody of my son. He’s three years old and I’d like to legally change his last name from my ex-husband’s to my name. Am I able to do this? And if so, is it fairly easy? And most importantly, does his father have a say because I know he would totally hate the idea?”
Rick: “No, you can’t do it. It’s a rights issue that a parent has. The child was born with that name. You can certainly talk to [your ex] and see if there’s any sort of an agreement, and maybe the two of you work out some sort of deal.”
Danny: “But if they don’t?”
Rick: “But if they don’t then no there’s not the ability to change the name absent the [other parent’s] agreement.”
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