Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In NJ, can Mom (or Dad) unilaterally change the child's name?

In a recent case, decided by the New jersey Supreme Court, Mother began using a hyphenated name for the children after a divorce from Father.  At birth, the parents were married and named the children using Father's surname.

If parents jointly choose a name at birth, can one parent later unilaterally change that name?

After the parties divorce, Mother began registering the children for school using a hyphenated name of her surname and Father's surname.  When Father realized Mother was using a different name for the children, he objected and Mother filed a petition to change the children's name to her last name.  Father objected.

The case wound its way to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which held:

The parent seeking to change the last name of a child which was jointly chosen by the parents at birth, bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the name change is in the child’s best interest. The court went on to note the irrelevancy of the parents' marital status at the birth and found that their is no presumption in favor of the custodial parent. 

Choose your child's name carefully at birth.

You can read the full case here:  Paul Emma v. Jessica Evans (A-112-11) (070071) decided August 12, 2013.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

This whole case is a joke. I can't believe that the first judge ever changed the name to Evans. The poor children's name have been changes so many times. if the mother was so concerned about the children then she should have just left it be at Emma. I don't see how children of that age really even think about their last name. Unless of course the mother is putting it in theire heads. I think the mother is a nut an feel sorry for the Dad and children. I hope the name stays Emma forever. And I do believe our judicial system is messed up for letting this happen.