by Kayleigh E. Bowman
If my child wants to change their name, and I have a court-ordered custody agreement with my child’s other parent, does the other parent have a say in the matter?
In true lawyer fashion, the answer is “It depends.” Changing a child’s name falls within the category of a legal decision for which parents either have joint legal custody or sole legal custody (or a combination of the two where one parent ultimately has the final say, known as joint legal custody with final decision-making authority). If a parent has sole legal custody, then they are free to make major medical, education, and religious decisions as well as other major life decisions without the input or approval of the other parent. If the parents have joint legal custody, then, prior to taking action to change their child’s name, the parent seeking the name change would be required to seek the consent of the other parent, or a court order. With that said, just because a parent can use their sole legal custody status to change a child’s name, doesn’t mean it is advisable to do so depending on the facts of the case, needs of the child, and how the court might view the unilateral decision in a future proceeding.
Take Dwyane Wade, former NBA star, for example. His child asked for their name to be changed. Dwyane has sole legal custody of the child and, therefore, he was not required to seek the approval of the child’s mother. According to news sources, Dwyane did reach out to the child’s mother to inform her of his intended actions which was not required but is the best practice when working to maintain a positive co-parenting relationship.
So, if your child comes to you and asks to change their name, in order to avoid finding yourself held in contempt and punished by the court, you will need to pull out your parenting plan and determine whether you need to seek the consent of the other parent prior to taking any action and also determine whether a conversation, whether required or not, is the right course of action. Our lawyers at Louden, Katz & McGrath, LLC are here to help you determine whether you need to seek consent prior to making a decision regarding your minor child and if so, what the appropriate next steps may be.