When requesting a name change of a minor, in addition to the publication requirements for all name change petitions, you must also prove service on the non-petitioning parent. If the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court must decide after hearing from the parties. There is no standard in the name change statute as far as what the court should be considering. Instead, a standard has been established through case law on prior name change matters. Similar to custody matters, a name change of a minor should only be granted if it is in the child’s best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child’s best interests.
The best interests of a child refer to the physical, intellectual, moral, social and spiritual needs of the child. General considerations in a best interests analysis, specifically in the context of a name change, include the natural bond between parent and child, the social stigma or respect afforded a particular name within the community, and if the child is old enough, whether the child understands the significance of the name change. There should not be a presumption afforded to either parent. The history of patrilineal naming (giving the child the father’s last name) cannot be the sole basis for granting a petition for name change. The court must review each case independently and make a determination in light of the totality of the circumstances.