Concerns over the children’s last names are rather common. It’s a lot more common when the parents aren’t married and already have a child. Suppose the parents are divorced or legally separated at the time of the baby’s birth, and the mother chooses to give the infant her last name. In that case, the question of the child’s legal name will likely emerge during any later matters involving support payments, custody, or visitation.
It is not difficult to petition a court to change a child’s name. You’ll need a few simple forms, most of which are free on the county court’s website. A court may grant a name change, but only if doing so is seen to be in the best interests of the child. If the other parent objects to the name change, you will have to go to court for a disputed hearing, where your chances of getting your way may be diminished significantly depending on the specifics of your case.
The Subjectivity of Best Interests of the Child
If a judge determines that it is in the child’s “best interests,” they will grant a name change. However, because this is a subjective criterion, there is often an opportunity for reasonable individuals to disagree on whether or not a name change is in the child’s best interests. However, some cases are much simpler than others.
When the Odds Favor Changing a Child’s Last Name in Court
A name change petition for a minor is more likely to be granted under the following circumstances:
- Parental requests are typically submitted jointly (whether married or not).
- When one parent files a petition and the other doesn’t object after being notified, the other parent may be granted their request.
- If a parent files a petition and the other parent is either unavailable or has abandoned their child, the petition may be granted.
- When both parents of a child file a joint petition with a court asking to change the child’s name, the court will nearly always agree to the request. This is the case regardless of whether or not the parents are together at the moment.
Instances Where a Court Might Refuse to Permit a Last Name Change
Courts are hesitant to grant name changes when both parents maintain contact with the child and one parent is opposed to the name change. This doesn’t mean the court won’t eventually give its blessing to the switch; rather, it means the judge will weigh the evidence presented by both parents before making a final decision. Arizona recognizes several factors that may be relevant in resolving whether a name change is in a child’s best interest:
- the child’s preference;
- the effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- the length of time the child has borne a given name;
- the difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing the present or proposed name; and
- the motive of the parents and the possibility that use of a different name will cause insecurity or a lack of identity.
Reference: Pizziconi v. Yarbrough, 177 Ariz. 422, 868 P.2d 1005 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1994)
Decades of Family Law Experience On Your Side
If you have questions about how to change your child’s name in Arizona or need help with any other family law matter, reach out by calling 602-548-3400 or filling out a case evaluation form to discuss your legal options. We accomplish this while taking into consideration the financial, legal, and psychological impact divorce and child custody cases can have. We always put our clients first. At Stewart Law Group, the future of every Phoenix family and child matters to us.