In most cases, a name change for a child is done when the child’s parents separate or divorce. This is done to keep the child’s last name the same as the custodial parent’s last name. Sometimes a child’s name may be changed if a man learns that he is the father of a child and wants the child to have his surname. And there are also times when a child may want to change his or her own name.
The court is not required to grant the request to change the name of a child. It has the discretion to do so if it determines that the name change is in the child’s best interest.
Name Change with Parental Divorce or Separation
Only a parent, a managing conservator, or a guardian of the child may file a lawsuit to change the child’s name. The court has discretion whether or not to grant the request to change the name of a child. The court does not have to grant the request just because the request was made. Generally, courts are reluctant to change the name of the child but may do so if the court determines that it is in the child’s best interest to do so. If the request is granted, the child may use his or her new name for all legal purposes.
What Defines “Best Interest”
The Texas Family Code does not define “best interest.” The court must determine if the name change is in the child’s best interest by considering various factors, including the following:
- The name that would avoid anxiety, embarrassment, inconvenience, confusion, or disruption for the child. This could include consideration of parental misconduct, such as a parent not supporting the child or not maintaining contact with the child.
- The name that would best help the child’s identity within a family unit.
- Assurances by the parent whose last name the child will bear that he or she will not change his or her last name at a later time.
- How long the child has used one last name and the level of identity the child has with that last name.
- The child’s preference, along with the age and maturity of the child.
- Whether either parent is motivated by concerns, other than the child’s best interest – for example, an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.
A Father Wants to Change His Child’s Surname
In a case where the court has to determine parentage – that is, to determine who is the father – it may, on the request of a party and for good cause shown, change the child’s name. However, a father does not have a constitutional right to have his child bear his last name. Newman v. King, 433 S.W.3d 420, 424 (Tex. 1968); In the Interest of D.A., 307 S.W.3d 556, 564 (Tex. App.–Dallas 2010, no pet.). A parent’s interest and desire to change a child’s name is not the primary reason to have the child’s name changed.
A Child Wants to Change His or Her Surname
A name change petition for a child can be filed at any time before the child becomes 18 years old, before the child gets married, or before the child has the disabilities of minority removed. But remember, the court is not required to grant the request to change the name of a child. It has the discretion to do so if it determines the name change is in the child’s best interest. Once a child becomes 18 years old, marries, or has the disabilities of minority removed, the child is then considered an adult, and the rules for a change of name for an adult apply.
Need Help with a Name Change?
If you would like more information about a name change for an adult or a child, please contact KIM PETTIT at the Law Office of Kim M. Pettit at (210) 558-4572 or request a consultation below.