Many individuals choose to return to a maiden or birth name following a divorce. If you changed your name during a divorce, you might be curious about changing the children’s names to match your own.
There is a way to legally change your child’s name in the State of New Jersey. However, it is entirely separate from the divorce process.
Typically, both parents must consent to the name change. If both parents consent, the judge will almost always approve the request. If one parent opposes the name change, things get a little more complicated.
What Does the Process Look Like?
The parent seeking the name change needs to submit a Verified Complaint (along with some other paperwork and a filing fee) to the Superior Court in the jurisdiction of the parent and child’s residence. The court will set a date for the hearing, and a notice of the request and hearing date must be published in the local newspaper at least two weeks before the hearing.
The other parent must be notified of the hearing and has a right to oppose the name change. After the court hearing, the final judgement must be published in the local newspaper.
The New Jersey Courts put together a packet to help parents request a name change for a child under the age of 18.
What if One Parent Does Not Consent?
As with all other issues in family court, judges will make the name change decision in the “best interest of the child.”
Traditionally, the courts have been biased toward keeping the child’s original last name, especially if the father plays an active role in the child’s life. However, if you can prove a name change would be in the best interest of the child, you may be able to change the child’s name without the consent of the other parent.
The court will consider numerous criteria when determining whether a name change is appropriate for the child:
- Age of the child
- Effect of a name change on the child’s relationship with both parents
- Length of time the child has used the current name
- Motivations of the parent requesting a name change
- Parental misconduct or neglect
- Potential harms of changing the child’s name (anxiety, embarrassment, etc.)
- The child’s existing relationship with each parent
- The current name’s ties to family heritage or ethnic identity
- The name’s role in identifying with a family unit
- The wishes of the child (mostly for older children)
- Whether the mother intends to change her name upon remarriage
- Other relevant factors that impact the child’s well-being
Every situation is different, so the judge’s opinion will depend heavily on the specific facts of the case.
Hire a New Jersey Family Lawyer
Changing a child’s name requires paperwork, filing fees, and court hearings. You should seek the assistance of a professional, especially if you anticipate opposition from the child’s other parent.