Can I Change My Child’s Last Name?

With the ever increasing number of births resulting from two people that are not married, it is often likely that the mother of the child has listed her last name, or someone else’s last name, without consulting the father. This debate usually happens in situations when the parties already have a conflict prior to the birth of the child and the father is either not at the hospital at the time to negotiate the last name, or the father refuses to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity demanding his rights to a DNA test, which can in turn result in the mother not allowing the father’s last name.

Whatever the situation may be, if you are the father and you either want the child’s first name or last name to be changed, you will have to petition for a name change in court. The standard for a name change is “clear and convincing evidence”. That is a pretty high standard.

In In re the Parentage of Oliver B., 2016 IL App (2d) 151136, the trial court had ordered the child’s last name to be changed from the mother’s last name to the father’s. The appellate court reversed stating that the father had failed to meet the standard of “clear and convincing evidence”. The only reason the father gave for the change was that he felt there was “no reason” why it shouldn’t be, while the mother argued that the father was sporadically in the her life throughout the pregnancy. The court noted that the trial court could have added the father’s last name as an additional middle name without necessarily removing the mother’s last name.

It has been my experience that courts are often keen to hyphenating last names in situations such as these. In either case, this case is important as it highlights the difficulty in having a child’s last name changed completely to the father’s last name. If this is your desire, then the best way to achieve this would be at the hospital at the time the child is named. Otherwise, keep in mind the standard that you will need to prove and the possibility that your last name could be included as a middle name or hyphenated either before or after the mother’s last name.

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