I Want to Change My Child’s Name-How Hard Is It?

It isn’t easy to change your child’s name.  The person seeking the name change must present clear and convincing evidence that the name change requested was necessary to serve the best interest of the child.  See 735 ILCS 5/21-101 (West 2014).  In the case discussed below, the mother was unsuccessful in changing her children’s names.

The case that just decided this issue is In re Marriage of Karyn Piegari.  In June 2016, Karyn filed a petition seeking a court order to change the children’s surnames, pursuant to section 21-101 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/21-101 (West 2014)). In the petition, Karyn alleged, inter alia, that, after the dissolution of her marriage to Alexander, she wished to resume the use of her maiden name—“Crider”—and that hyphenating the children’s surnames—to “Piegari-Crider”—would “avoid future confusion when [she] enrolls the children in [school] and extra-curricular activities.” In addition, Karyn noted that hyphenating the children’s surnames would “allow the children to appreciate and enjoy their cultural heritage,” since “ ‘Piegari’ is Italian and ‘Crider’ is Scot-Irish.” And, she continued, since “the children are still young”—currently they are ages four, two, and two (the latter two are twins)—changing their surnames would “not cause [them] any confusion” and would “not affect [their] involvement in school and the community.”

The court noted that, under section 21- 101, it was required to consider, for each child, “all relevant factors,” including: (1) the parents’ wishes; (2) the child’s wishes; (3) the child’s “interaction and interrelationship” with his or her family; and (4) “[t]he child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community.” Id. The court further noted that the burden of proof in such cases is a high one, as the statute clearly states that a name-change order “shall be entered as to a minor only if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the change is necessary to serve the best interest of the child.” (Emphases added.) Id.; see also In re Tate Oliver B., 2016 IL App (2d) 151136, ¶ 30 (stating that, “[b]ecause a change in the name of a child is a serious matter with far-reaching effects,” section 21-101 permits such a change only in compelling circumstances). Despite this high burden, however, Karyn presented no evidence to the court and submitted no offers of proof at the hearing (though Karyn’s attorney did reiterate Karyn’s “strong desire” to see the children’s names hyphenated).  To read more about the case, see: http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2016/2ndDistrict/2160594.pdf

 

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