Our names are very important to us. They are a reflection of our families, of our heritage, of our marriages. There are times, however, when it is necessary or desirable to change one’s name. This is true of adults and children alike. North Carolina law therefore allows for legal name changes if certain conditions are met.
Changing A Child’s Legal Name
If a child is a product of marriage, or if the biological father is on the child’s birth certificate, the child will almost always take the father’s last name. However, a child’s parent, legal guardian, or court appointed guardian ad litem can file a petition to change the name of the child. The general rule is that an application to change a child’s name must be consented to by both parents. However, sometimes it is not feasible, safe, or fair to seek the other parent’s consent. Therefore, there are a limited set of exceptions in which a parent’s consent is not required. This includes:
- If a sixteen year old child has been legally abandoned by one parent, that child can seek a name change with just the consent of the custodial parent. Abandonment must be supported by a court order or a determination by the county clerk after attempts to notify that parent.
- If a minor child has been abandoned by one parent, the other parent can file for a change of name for that child. This abandonment must also be demonstrated by an existing court order or a determination by the clerk.
- A parent can filed for a name change without the other parent’s consent if that other parent has been convicted of one of the following criminal offenses against the child or child’s sibling:
- Felony or misdemeanor child abuse;
- Indecent liberties with a minor;
- Rape or other qualifying sexual offense;
- Incest; or
- “Assault, communicating a threat, or any other crime of violence.”
The parent filing for the change of name must present proof of the conviction.
As you can tell from the exceptions, the circumstances that allow for a name change without a parent’s consent is through abandonment by that parent or by some qualifying criminal malfeasance by that parent. This means that through their conduct, the parent has essentially lost the right to name the child.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
New Direction Family Law guides clients through family law matters, including separations, divorce, child custody, child support, and alimony. Our lawyers take pride in providing methodical, practical legal counsel to our clients. If you need legal assistance, contact us. We practice in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law