If you are planning to file for divorce or you are in the process of getting divorced and have a minor child from your marriage, you may be in a situation in which you want to change your child’s last name. While changing a minor child’s last name might not even be an issue in cases where the parents share child custody and parenting time—in which case there may be no need to consider the possibility of changing the child’s last name—other situations can be quite different. For example, some divorces may involve a spouse and parent who has been absent for years and abandoned the family. Or, for instance, the divorce may have resulted from domestic or family violence, and the parent with custody might want to look into the possibility of changing the child’s last name. In yet other situations, one of the parents simply may have given up all parenting time claims and might have indicated that she or he does not have plans to remain in the child’s life other than contributing to legally required child support payments.
Can you change your minor child’s last name after divorce? The answer is “maybe,” and it depends upon the specific facts of your case.
When Parents Both Consent to the Name Change
When the parents of the minor child both consent to the name change after a divorce, Michigan law allows the parents to complete and file a petition to change the child’s name. However, this is not the only required step. If a Michigan judge determines that the child is mature enough to have a preference concerning the name change, even if the child is under the age of 14, the judge can take the child’s preference into account when determining whether to grant the petition for the name change. If the child is 14 years of age or older, the child must consent to the name change and is required to sign a consent form in the presence of the judge before the petition will be granted and the child’s name can be changed legally.
When the Parents Do Not Agree About the Name Change
The situation is different when one parent wants to change their minor child’s last name after a divorce and the other parent does not agree. At the most basic level, the parent petitioning to change the minor child’s last name must be a custodial parent. In terms of Michigan law, that parent must have sole or joint custody of the child. If this condition is met, the same requirements concerning the child’s preference (for kids both under the age of 14 and those 14 and older) must be satisfied as discussed above.
Then, one of the following two situations must be true for the court to grant the custodial parent’s petition to change the minor child’s last name:
- Other parent has not paid child support over the last two years despite having the ability to do so and, in that same time, has not had significant contact with the child; or
- Other parent was convicted of child abuse or a sex offense and the minor child (or one of the minor child’s siblings) was the victim of the crime.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan
If you have questions or concerns about changing a minor child’s name after divorce, a Michigan divorce lawyer at our firm can assist you. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more.