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If you are currently married and planning to divorce, or have recently divorced, dropping your spouse’s last name and going back to your own may be on the top of your to-do list. Depending upon your circumstances, you may also be hoping to change the last names of your children (assuming they have been given your ex-spouse’s last name). Here’s what you need to know about doing so:

Petition to Change a Child’s Name

Changing a child’s legal name is a process that requires going through the court. There are three likely forms that you may need to complete in order to petition to change your child’s name (work with an attorney to figure out which form specifically applies to your case):

  • Request for name change;
  • Notice of court date for request of name change; or/and
  • Order for change of name.

One of the most important steps in the name change process is getting the other parent’s permission to change the child’s name; you cannot change the child’s name on your own unless you are the sole party with legal parental rights. The easiest way to get the other parent’s permission is to ask them to sign the request for name change form.

When the Child’s Other Parent Opposes the Name Change

If the other parent is in support of the name change, or if the other parent has abandoned the child and cannot be located, the court is more likely to approve a name change. However, in the event that the other parent is opposed to the name change, the court may be reluctant to grant it. That being said, the court will consider factors such as:

  • The wishes of each parent;
  • The wishes of the child;
  • The relationship between the child and each parent;
  • The benefits of retaining or changing a name; and
  • Any other relevant information.

Again, name changes are very rare when one of the parents does not consent to the name change. Further, even if the name change is granted, it will not affect the other parent’s parental rights.

Benefits of Changing a Child’s Name after Divorce

Changing a child’s name is a large legal undertaking, and will affect a child for life. Because a name is so closely related to identity, understanding the benefits and consequences of name changes is very important.

Changing a child’s name after a divorce may be advised in the event that the other parent is absent, has abandoned the child, or is abusive. It may also be advised if a new stepparent is adopting the child; having the same last name can create family unity.

To learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of changing a child’s name after divorce, contact our experienced Illinois child custody and family law lawyers at the office of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. If you decide that changing a child’s name is the right step, we can guide you through the process.