You may ask yourself, why would a parent wish to change the last name of his or her minor child? Well, a number of reasons may exist. A popular reason frequently arises where two unmarried parents have different last names. In one situation, the child retained the last name of the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent wishes for the child to have his or her last name, but is met with the custodial parent’s opposition. This disagreement can be resolved one of two ways. The easier, less likely option, involves the minor’s custodial parent consenting to the non-custodial parent’s wishes. As soon as the custodial parent consents to the change of name, a Petition for Change of Name is filed in the child’s county of residence, and upon satisfying the statutory formalities, the child’s last name is changed to that of the non-custodial parent. The harder, more frequent option, is where the custodial parent does not consent to the minor’s change of name. In this situation, the non-custodial parent must file the same document, a Petition for Change of Name, but must also prove the change of name is in the best interest of the child. If it can be proven that a change of name is in the best interest of the child, the court will likely grant the minor child's Petition for Change of Name.
In Pennsylvania, the best interest of the child standard is widely recognized for its application in child custody cases. However, the best interest standard is also applied by courts in cases involving the change of a minor’s last name. The best interest standard is found in 23 Pa.C.S. § 5328. The court considers the sixteen separate factors found within the statute when determining whether a change of name is in the best interest of the child. Factors relating to the best interest of the child include:
Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact with the other parent;
the parental duties performed by each party;
which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable relationship with the child;
the child’s relationships with siblings;
drug or alcohol abuse and the mental and physical condition of the parties;
the child’s need for stability;
whether a member of a party’s household has been convicted of crimes; and
the preference of the child (if the child is mature enough).
In addition to weighing and applying the § 5328 factors, the court will also examine the following:
The history of visitation with the child;
whether child support payments have been maintained;
whether the parent has been consistently involved in the child’s life; and
the reputation of a particular last name in the child’s community.
The process for changing the name of a minor may seem daunting. However, with the assistance of an experienced attorney, the entire process is simplified. If you wish to change your child’s last name, the best advice isto contact an attorney to discuss your options, determine whether a change of name is in your child’s best interest, and discuss the likelihood of successfully achieving a change of name through the court.
We at the Law Offices of Max C. Feldman are here for you. Call us at (412) 262-6161 or email us at email@example.com for a free consultation as soon as you are ready to discuss changing your child's last name.