Divorce: Changing Your Child’s Name

A common feature after a divorce is that one spouse may choose to change their name. Further, a parent may also choose to change the child’s name too. Petitioning a court to change a child’s name is usually not difficult, all it requires is filling out a few basic forms that are downloadable for free. However, getting a judge to approve the name change is a different issue. This article will discuss the manner in which family court would handle changing a child’s name and the elements taken into consideration.

It is important to note that when it comes to divorce and issues relating to children, the ‘best interests of the child’ is the standard that is used. Unfortunately, because the child’s best interests test is applied on a case by case basis, the standard is quite vague and as a result some cases are more straightforward than others. There are three common situations in which a court is likely to approve a petition to change a child’s name and these are:

  • Both parents petition together, whether they are married or not – where both parents petition the court together to change the name of the child in almost all situations the court will grant the name change
  • One parent petitions, and after notification, the other parent does not object
  • One parent petitions and the second parent cannot be found or has abandoned the child

If only one parent wants to make the change and appears in court, the judge is likely to approve the name change as long as the petitioning parent can show that the other parent has been officially notified of the proposed change and has failed to appear.

In situations where both parents have maintained a relationship with the child and one opposes the name change, the court is usually reluctant to go on and change the name and will never do so without a hearing. However, this does not ultimately mean that a court will not approve the change, it just means that the court will listen to each parent’s arguments for or against the name change and decide what is in the child’s best interests. In deciding whether or not to change the child’s name, the court will take the following factors into consideration:

  • The length of time the child has used the current last name
  • The effect of the name change on the preservation of the relationship with both parents
  • The status and strengths of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The needs of the child to identify with a new family unit through the use of a common name
  • In respect of older children, the child’s preference
  • Any other factors the court finds important in a given case

Once all this information is available to the court, the court will balance these factors in order to help decide whether or not to change the name and if this is in the child’s best interests.

It is important to receive legal advice and representation in respect of such delicate matters as a child’s name change, contact a divorce lawyer Toronto today.


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