At the Law Office of Lisa Vance, P.C., we often get the question about changing a child’s name after birth. That’s understandable, given that we’re in the age of the modern family, with blended families and with children who aren’t necessarily raised by their biological parents.
There’s a provision of the Texas Family Code – Chapter 45, specifically – that covers a parent’s ability to change a child’s name. (It also applies to custodians and guardians, in situations where parents aren’t involved in raising their children.)
If a child is at least 10 years old, he or she must also consent to the name change, and the petitioning parent needs to let the other parent know of the change prior to making it. It can happen as part of divorce cases, though interestingly enough, it needs to originate in the county where the child lives – even if it’s different from the county in which the divorce is filed.
The parent petitioning the court needs to show that it’s in the best interest of the child to have the name change. Avoiding inconvenience or embarrassment can be valid reasons to request a name change, but it’s important to note that it needs to be the child’s inconvenience or embarrassment that factors in to the best interest, not the parent’s inconvenience or embarrassment. What the parent experiences as the result of the child and parent having different last names should be immaterial to the judge’s determination.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no Constitutional right for either parent to give his or her last name to the child, and though it’s customary for a married couple to give a child the father’s last name – or a hyphenated name – there’s nothing requiring that of an unmarried couple. Texas law requires a Certificate of Birth be filed within five days of the date of birth for every live birth in Texas, registered through the Vital Statistics Unit. So, if there’s a dispute between the child’s parents over what to name a child, the parents are supposed to resolve it (initially, at least) by then. (I’m sure that some of you parents are chuckling right now.)
A child who is under the age of 18 can’t petition the court for a name change, but upon turning 18, it’s entirely possible to do so. There’s no burden of proof about showing that the old name is detrimental – it’s purely incumbent on the adult child to determine what he wants his or her name to be, and that the reason for doing so is not fraudulent (i.e. the person is not trying to skip out on debt or a criminal record)
In this day and age, where parents are no longer choosing names from the “traditional” book of names; I imagine there might be a lot more adult name changes as the years pass.