If you are involved in a divorce, you may wonder about parent and child name changes due to the end of the marriage. Many American couples follow the tradition of the wife taking the husband’s last name when they marry. LGBTQ couples also may opt for one spouse to take the other’s name. Moreover, American couples often give their children the family’s last name. If parents stay together, the wife or spouse that changed their name usually keeps that name for life. But if parents decide to divorce, name changes for one or both parents and the children from the marriage may become an important issue.
Parent Name Changes During a Divorce
When a couple divorces, one spouse may decide to change her last name. Typically the wife, who took her husband’s last name upon marriage, changes it back to her maiden name or to something different. North Carolina law allows a divorcing spouse to petition for a name change when divorcing.
You can include a petition for a name change in your divorce complaint. If you receive a divorce complaint from your spouse, then you can include the petition for name change in your answer to the complaint. When the divorce becomes final, the judge will make an order approving your name change. In North Carolina, a woman who is divorcing can request a name change to:
“(1) Her maiden name; or
(2) The surname of a prior deceased husband; or
(3) The surname of a prior living husband if she has children who have that husband’s surname.”
A man who is divorcing and had changed his name upon marriage can request a name change to the last name that he had before marriage.
If you do not request a name change in your divorce petition or answer, it is not too late. You can decide later that you want a name change and apply to the court for an order to change it. Again, your options for changing your last name include your maiden or former last name and last names of prior husbands.
Child Name Changes During a Divorce
When a marriage unfortunately ends in divorce, child custody could become a hotly contested issue. Along with custody, deciding on name changes for children may be contentious. A woman who changes her last name back to her maiden name upon divorce may want to change her child’s last name too. The father may object because he wants the child to have his last name. In North Carolina, a child’s name can be changed upon divorce under very limited circumstances.
North Carolina judges who decide child custody matters must look to the best interests of the child. Every decision should be made with a child’s well-being in mind. A name change could be a very significant event for a child. The name is part of the child’s identity and symbolizes a bond with the parents and family. Changing a child’s last name could potentially damage relationships. As a result, requesting a name change is a weighty and serious decision. It should only be done if it is best for the child.
In North Carolina, both parents must consent to a child’s name change. There are a few limited exceptions. A parent can request a name change for a child if the other parent has abandoned the child. Further, a minor who is 16 or older can request a name change with the custodial parent’s consent only, if the clerk of court decides that the other parent has abandoned the child. Also, a parent can request a name change for a child if the other parent has been convicted of any of the following crimes against the child or a sibling:
· Felonious or misdemeanor child abuse
· Taking indecent liberties with a minor
· Assault, communicating a threat, or any other crime of violence
· Rape or any other sex offense
Similar to a parent’s name change, a child’s name change is accomplished by filing a petition requesting the change with the court. If you have questions about the name change process, reach out to a local divorce and child custody lawyer for assistance.
Our Team at New Direction Family Law Is Here to Assist You
If you want to change your or your child’s name because of a divorce, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to evaluate your situation. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are compassionate, knowledgeable, and effective, professionals. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, and Durham Counties in North Carolina. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.