Traditionally, when a couple marries, one spouse takes the other's last name. When the couple has a child, they give the child the family's last name. Unfortunately, some marriages end in divorce, and child custody may be a contentious issue. When the divorce is final, one spouse, usually the mother, may choose to legally change her name back to her maiden name, and she may wish to change her child's surname to match. In limited circumstances, North Carolina courts allow parents to make this change.
Best Interests of the Child in North Carolina
When North Carolina courts make decisions involving children, the judge considers the best interests of the child. A child's name is linked to his or her identity and changing the name may cause unnecessary emotional distress. Changing your child's surname may also damage the parent-child bond.
Changing your child's name is not, therefore, a decision to make lightly and should be made with the intention of preserving the best relationship between the child and both parents. North Carolina laws have specified when parents can change a child's last name after divorce.
Reasons North Carolina allows a child's name change include:
- When both parents give permission for the child's name to be changed;
- One parent is deceased;
- The non-custodial parent abandons the child; or
- The child has reached age 16 and wishes to change his or her name.
North Carolina Name Change Process for Minors
The North Carolina minor name change process begins with filing an application with the Clerk of Superior Court. This application may be filed by both parents or by one parent with the other's consent. If the child is over the age of 16, the child may file his or her own name change application with the consent of the custodial parent if the other parent has abandoned him or her.
If the biological father is not petitioning for the name change with the child's mother, he must sign a consent form if:
- his name is listed on the child's birth certificate;
- a court order has established paternity; or
- he is required by a court order to pay child support.
The application must include:
- the child's true name;
- county of birth;
- date of birth;
- full names of parents shown on the birth certificate; and
- the name he or she wishes to adopt.
The Clerk of Superior Court reviews the application and will grant or deny it based on the information presented.
If granted, the Clerk issues an Order containing its findings and forwards it to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. If the child was not born in North Carolina, the State Registrar of Vital Statistics will forward the Order to the child's state of birth.
At the end of the process, if all goes well, you will have a new birth certificate issued reflecting your child's name change.
Hire an Experienced North Carolina Family Law Attorney
Although changing your child's name after your divorce may seem like a simple matter, very few situations fit neatly into the guidelines set by North Carolina law. An experienced attorney can guide you through any legal issues that arise and recommend specific legal action to take if your ex-spouse opposes your child's name change.
The attorneys at Jerkins Family Law understand that divorce and child custody are emotional issues and are committed to helping you with any legal issues that arise during or after your divorce. Contact us today.