In today’s culture, it is still rather common for a woman to take her husband’s last name when they get married. A person in same-sex marriage may also change his or her last name to match that of their partner. Following a divorce, those who have changed their names may wish to change them back again, so as to demonstrate a clean break from their former partner and an emphasis on new beginnings. In most cases, reverting to a previous name is not particularly difficult for an adult.
Sometimes, however, a parent may also wish to change his or her child’s last name after the divorce as well. According to Illinois law, the process of changing a child’s name is much more challenging than that for an adult, as a child’s name is a large part of his or her identity.
Understanding the Law
While most of the statutes governing to marriage and divorce in the state are contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the provision that addresses a child’s name change is part of the state’s Code of Civil Procedure. The law says that the court may only enter a name change for a child under the age of 18 if the petitioning parent shows “clear and convincing evidence that the change is necessary to serve the best interest of the child.” In determining the child’s best interest, the court must take into account:
- The wishes of each parent or any person acting in a parental role;
- The wishes of the child, as well as his or her understanding of the situation;
- The relationship of the child with his or her parents, stepparents, siblings, and others; and
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and local community.
This means that the name change of a child must serve a greater purpose that just fulfilling the wishes of the parent who filed the petition.
Appellate Court Rejects Name Change Petition
Last summer, a mother who was going through a divorce in DuPage County petitioned the court to change the last name of her children. She wanted their last name to be hyphenated and include both her maiden name and their father’s surname. The mother maintained that the change would reduce future confusion for the children and allow them to better appreciate the heritage of both names. The father opposed the name change petition, so the matter went before the court. The trial court ruled against the mother saying she did not provide clear and convincing evidence as required by the law.
When the mother appealed, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision and added additional clarification. According to the appellate court ruling, the mother did not even have the right to attempt to change the children’s name without their father’s approval. The couple’s parenting plan provided that they were to share significant decision-making authority equally. Since the mother had begun using the hyphenated version of the children’s names before the petition was granted, the court determined she was in violation of the existing parenting plan.
Call a Family Law Attorney Today
If your divorce recently finalized and you are thinking about changing your child’s name, contact an experienced Kane County family lawyer. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today. We will help you understand your options and will provide responsible representation throughout the process.