In Pennsylvania child name change cases, the person who wants to change the name of a child must show the court why the name change would be in the child's best interest and give specific reasons. If the other parent contests the name change, the court must evaluate all of the relevant factual circumstances. Generally, the court must consider the child's physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being, bonds between parent and child, the respect or social stigma which may exist in the community regarding a particular name, and the child's understanding of the name change, if he or she is of sufficient age to understand the rationale.
Recently, the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania directed that a child's last name be changed to that of his mother, who has sole legal and physical custody. In its opinion, the court gave great weight to the fact that the child really does not know his father, as he was deported and there is no meaningful contact. Additionally, the child has severe cognitive disabilities making contact with his father even less likely. The father protested the name change because, with very little prospect of having a relationship with the child, having the same last name is their only tie.
The trial court granted the change of name and the father appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The appeal is pending. The name of the case is In Re: A.A.H.S., No. 2011-15262.
Pennsylvania law provides the trial court with discretion regarding contested name changes of a child. Each case will be specific to the facts and circumstances of a particular family. The litigation can be extremely expensive and time consuming. If you are considering a name change for a minor, which you expect the other parent to oppose, consult with an experienced attorney to analyze your case.