SHOULD YOU CHANGE THE CHILDREN’S LAST NAME AFTER DIVORCE?
So, what is the answer to this question should you change the children’s last name after divorce? I am not sure how I feel about this. What do you think?
One of my followers on Twitter brought my attention to a story coming out of Trenton New Jersey about this woman who petitioned the courts to change her children’s last name AFTER DIVORCE to hers.
The lower court granted her petition. But the father appealed, and the appellete court overruled the lower court. On appeal, the court pretty much said that the lower court erred since it used the wrong standard in its analysis. The correct standard for anything having to do with children is the “best interest of the child” but the lower court apparently based its decision on the fact that the children resided with their mother who had “primary physical custody” and so she had the right to change their name even though they were given their father’s last name at birth.
Interesting case. Why wouldn’t it be in their best interest to change their names to their mother’s? Traditionally, most of us take our father’s last names at birth. I wonder why that is? What is the rule that says you should take your father’s last name and your husband’s last name? Isn’t that incredibly paternalistic and sexist? I mean, just to play devil’s advocate? I have my father’s last name and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but why is this so automatic? That you take your father’s last name and your husband’s? Why couldn’t it be in the best interest of these children to take their mother’s last name?
Since she has primary residential custody, it would probably lend a sense of consistency and stability and cohesion if she were allowed to change their names to hers, so there is no confusion with the outside world – for example at school and other places where names come up. If they all have the same last name, it’s just easier. It’s just less cumbersome. Which is why a lot of women keep their husband’s last name after marriage. It’s just easier. Especially if there are kids involved and they obviously have their father’s name.
But now some guys are making a big deal of their ex wives keeping their last names. So that presents the issue of what to do about the kids. Why can’t a woman change the kids’ names to hers? If she asks her husband’s permission, or is required to obtain it, more than likely he will not grant such permission. So the kids will always have his last name. And as a traditionalist, I’m not outraged by it or anything. But I’m asking, why? Why couldn’t a non-traditionalist have the option to change her kids’ names to hers? Why do kids automatically have to have their father’s last name? That’s my big question. Why can’t a person change the children’s last name after divorce and not be the heavy?