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Do I Need Permission to Change My Child’s Last Name in NJ?
For many parents, a lot of time and thought goes into choosing the perfect first name for a child. But there are also legitimate reasons why these parents may one day wish to change their child’s last name.
There’s an old adage that states: Words have meaning, but names have power. That is still true today. Our names provide us with our personal identity. They also allow us to connect ourselves to our families, our family history, and our larger national and cultural heritage.
If you want to change your child’s last name, in New Jersey, there’s a specific procedure that must be followed. Knowing how to file and what to expect will be helpful before you decide whether to take this big step on behalf of your child.
Do I Need Permission to Change My Child’s Last Name?
As with most issues brought to the courts, the answer is: “It depends.” As part of the process of obtaining a change in last name for your child, you’ll need to notify your child’s other biological parent. Once you appear in court, the other parent could contest the change before the judge.
At this point, the judge will hear both parents’ reasons for wanting or not wanting the child to obtain a new last name. The judge will then decide what’s in the child’s best interest. This latter issue is what generally guides most judges in their decisions in family courts.
There are a few questions the judge will likely want to be answered before deciding on a name change. They include:
- Why does the parent want to change the child’s name?
- Why is the other parent opposed to the name change?
- What’s the relationship of the child with the parents like?
- How long has the child been using his or her current family name?
- How does the child see themself in relation to the family as a whole?
- What potential impact could the name change have on the child?
- What name does the child want? (This last question will depend on the age and maturity level of the child.)
How Do I Change My Child’s Last Name in New Jersey?
Here’s a very simple overview of the process to petition the New Jersey courts for your child’s last name change:
- The first thing you need to do to start the process is fill out the appropriate forms with the court. (If you’re planning to change more than one child’s name, then you’ll need multiple forms.) As part of this, you’ll also need to pay the fees and provide the court with a self-addressed envelope so the court can mail your documents back to you.
- Once the paperwork is processed, you’ll receive a court date for the hearing. You must then take steps to notify the child’s other parent about the name change. Also, you’ll generally be required to take out an ad in the local paper announcing the potential name change to notify any potential parties about it.
- Next, you must attend the hearing and present your case to the court. If the other parent is objecting, then they’ll plead their case and the judge will decide.
- Finally, if the child’s name is changed, you must take out another ad in the paper to announce the change and contact any government agencies about the name change.
Can My Child’s Name Change Be Part of the Divorce Proceedings?
There’s a lot you can cover in your divorce proceedings, from alimony and child support payments to custody time. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to include your child’s last name change in the divorce case. You’ll need to start a different court procedure to successfully change your child’s name.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me File for My Child’s Surname Change?
It’s always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney before you file with the courts to ensure you’re representing yourself and your case the best way possible for the courts to understand your petition. It’s also helpful to know and understand all your options.
The two main reasons you’d want to hire an attorney to help you with changing your child’s last name is:
1. You anticipate the other parent, or anyone else, will object to the name change.
2. You don’t feel confident being able to present your case before a judge in a court of law.
Changing Your Child’s Name in NJ Is a Complex Process
Our name is an integral part of who we are and how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, a parent may find it necessary to change their child’s last name for whatever reason. However, if you plan to do this, it is essential that you obtain a qualified family attorney who can help you handle the process and potential objections from others. An experienced family law attorney will know how your options will benefit you most and have a team to organize the process so it’s stress-free for you.
Contact the Expert Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. You may also be contemplating changing your child’s last name. The experienced New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.