Mother Appeals Ruling Changing Child’s Surname to the Father’s
When parents have a child outside of marriage, they sometimes disagree regarding whose last name the child should take. A recent Texas case highlights exactly how complicated an issue as seemingly simple as a child’s last name can quickly become.
Texas Family Law
Texas family law allows a court to change a child’s name if the name change is deemed to be in the child’s best interests. Further, if a parent requests a child’s name change during the adjudication of parentage (the determination of paternity if it is not established at birth) and can show good cause for doing so, the court can order such a change.
The Case at Hand
The parents at the heart of the recent case separated soon after learning of the pregnancy in question, and four months after the child was born, the father petitioned for adjudication of parenting. At that time, he requested that the court address all of the following matters:
Their child custody arrangements
Changing the child’s surname to his own
The couple was able to agree to terms on every issue, save the name change.
The Father’s Position
The child’s father shared that he had been allowed full involvement with the mother’s pregnancy after their breakup but that he did go to the hospital at the time of the child’s birth and had tried to set up a visitation schedule. The father relayed that he wanted to pass the name his father had passed to him (and that had meant so much to him) down to his only child. Finally, the father wanted to avoid the complications he thought the child would encounter in the future with a hyphenated last name. The trial court granted the father’s name change request.
The Mother’s Perspective
The mother had reluctantly agreed to hyphenate the child's last name but made all of the following points – regarding changing her child's surname to the father's – to the trial court and, ultimately, to the appellate court involved:
The father showed little interest in the child early on.
She had offered to list the father on the child’s birth certificate, but he did not come to the hospital to sign the paperwork at the time of the child’s birth.
She had concerns about her ability to prove the child was hers in specific situations (when traveling or at the doctor’s office, for example).
She argued that the father’s arguments for carrying on his name were outdated.
Ultimately, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling, and the child’s surname was changed to the father’s.