Father’s Rights – Changing or Hyphenating Your Child’s Last Name

Name Change

Last names are important because they identify us with our families and remind us where we come from. Did you know that you can ask a court to change your child’s last name if it is not the same as yours? If you are the father of a child whose last name is different than yours, there are two main ways to change the child’s last name. The first way is to get the consent of the mother. If this doesn’t work, you can ask a court to change the child’s name over the objection of the mother under Article 6 of the NY Civil Rights Law.

The judge hearing your case will change the name of your child if there are no reasonable objections and the best interests of your child will be substantially promoted by the name change.

There are eight main factors a judge will consider.

  1. The Child’s Use of a Last Name
  2. The Child’s Preference
  3. Differences Between the Custodial Parent’s Last Name and the Child’s Last Name
  4. Effects of the New Name on the Child’s Relationship with Both Parents
  5. Last Names of Siblings
  6. Knowledge of the Last Name by Others
  7. Misconduct of the Parents
  8. Difficulties the Child May Experience

Fathers should be aware that courts recognize their interest in having their children have their last name. But courts also recognize that neither parent has more right than the other to pick their child’s last name. Usually, courts will only deprive a child of his or her father’s last name if the father has done something gravely wrong.

You can also ask a court to hyphenate your child’s last name so it includes both parents’ last names. For example, if your last name is Smith and the mother’s last name is Brown, a judge could change your child’s name to Smith-Brown. Judges have done so in the past because the hyphenated name becomes a symbolic reminder to the child of his or her relationship with both the father and mother. The hyphenated name becomes a reminder of the ethics heritage of both parents.

If you or someone you know wants to change their child’s last name, please contact us. We can help.