When you adopt a child, it is understandable that you would want the child to take on your family’s name, so a petition for changing the child’s last name would be likely be granted. The situation is much different, however, when a parent wishes to change his or her child’s last name following a divorce. A person’s name—including his or her surname—is a big part of his or her identity, especially for a child, and according to the law in Illinois, changing a child’s name is not particularly easy. The issue recently gained attention in DuPage County as a divorcing mother tried to change her children’s surname without their father’s consent.
What the Law Says
While most of the laws that pertain to marriage and divorce in the state are contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the statute that addresses changing a child’s name is found in the state’s Code of Civil Procedure. The law provides that the court will only enter a name change for a minor child if there is “clear and convincing evidence that the change is necessary to serve the best interest of the child.” To determine the child’s best interest, the court must consider:
- The wishes of each parent or any party acting as a parent;
- The wishes of the child, based on 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 a petition for a child’s name change must be based on more than just the desires or the convenience of the filing party.
Appeals Court Rejects Name Change Petition
Last summer, a divorcing mother in DuPage County filed a petition to change the surname of her children, looking to hyphenate their father’s surname with her maiden name. She claimed that the change would reduce confusion for the children in the future and help them appreciate the heritage associated with both names. The father opposed the petition, and the trial court ultimately rejected the mother’s attempt because she did not offer the clear and convincing evidence that the law requires.
The mother appealed, but the appellate court took the matter a step further. In addition to affirming the lower court’s ruling on the name change petition, the appeals court also determined that the mother overstepped her parental decision-making authority by attempting to change the children’s name without their father’s consent. The couple’s parenting plan stipulated that they would share decision-making responsibilities equally. Therefore, her actions in using the hyphenated version of the children’s names before the petition was approved violated the parenting plan.
Call a Family Law Attorney Today
If you are recently divorced and are considering changing your child’s name, an experienced Orland Park family lawyer can help you understand the steps you will need to take. Contact Kezy & Associates today for a free consultation at any of our three convenient office locations.