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Changing a child's legal name in New Jersey

One aspect of divorce that parents may not think about right away is what their children's last name should be after the divorce is finalized. Recently the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on this important topic.

The children in the court case in question were given their father's name when they were born. After the divorce, when the parents received joint legal custody and the mother primary residential custody, the mother started hyphenating the children's name on school and medical records with her surname. When challenged by her former husband regarding the hyphenation she filed a formal application to change her children's last name. The court ruled that the mother could not change the child's last name without consent of her former husband. The court also said that when there is a name dispute the best interest of the child standard should be used.

With this ruling the court offered guidelines in determining whether a name change is in the child's best interest. These guidelines include: "The length of time the child has used his or her given surname; identification of the child with a particular family unit; potential anxiety; embarrassment or discomfort that may result from having a different surname from that of the custodial parent; and the child's preference if the child is mature enough to express it." They also noted that this should apply to children regardless of whether their parents were married.

When a divorced couple is facing issues with their children, including post divorce modifications, getting the right information about all of the options can be extremely important.

Source: phillyburbs.com, "NJ high court rules in Burlington family naming dispute," Danielle Camilli, Aug. 12, 2013

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