Split parents battle over last name of children

A unique child custody case out of New Jersey involved settling an ongoing dispute between two divorced parents over whose last name should be given to the couple’s children. The mother was seeking to change the last name of the children to her maiden name from their current last name, which is shared with the father.

A ruling last week by a panel of the state appellate court delivered a victory to the father when it overturned a previous order allowing the mother to change the names of the children. This original order sided with the mother on the sole basis that she is the parent of primary residence for the children.

Here, the judge based this decision on two prior state Supreme Court cases involving unwed mothers. However, the appellate panel ruled that this actually made the current case distinguishable from those two cases and that that the legal standard in the case should really be the best interests of the children.

Using this legal standard, the appellate panel went on to determine that neither parent has the unilateral right to change the names of any of the children.

Specifically, a determining factor in the matter was that the parents had previously agreed to joint legal custody, meaning they would share “authority and responsibility for making major decisions regarding the welfare of the child[ren].” A name change, the court reasoned, would fall into this category.

The legal dispute has been ongoing since 2010, the year the couple divorced. Following the divorce, the mother had attempted to change the names of the children by pointing out that their last names had been hyphenated on some state records, utilizing both last names of the parents. However, official birth documents listed the last names of the children as that of the father.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about child custody or visitation, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Courier Post, “Divorced duo fights over kids’ last name” Jan. 20, 2012