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Do I Need Permission to Change My Child’s Last Name in Arizona?

Posted On May 15, 2024 In Family Law

After a divorce, many women revert to their previous last name, or “maiden name.” Most include this stipulation as part of their divorce order to facilitate the change; however, changing a child’s last name isn’t as simple. While it’s relatively easy to file a petition to change a child’s last name, the child’s other parent has the right to dispute the change and call for a hearing for a judge to decide. Contact a Chandler family law attorney from Wilson-Goodman Law Group PLLC for guidance.

Reasons to Seek a Last Name Change for a Child

Depending on the reason for requesting a last name change, the parent requesting the change may need permission from the other parent or a judge. Common reasons a parent may seek a last name change for a child in Arizona include the following:

  • After becoming a single parent post-divorce, a parent may find it easier for their child to share their last name on school forms, medical documents, and passports
  • An unmarried parent may marry and take their husband’s last name and desire their child to take on the new family name
  • If a mother is unmarried, separated, or divorced at the time they give birth and gives her child her last name on the birth certificate, the child’s father could petition the court to legally change the child’s last name to his own

Regardless of the reason for requesting a last name change for a child in Arizona, the child’s other biological parent must give permission or may dispute the request.

What Happens If a Parent Disputes the Other Parent’s Request for a Child’s Change of Last Name?

If the other parent doesn’t wish to remain involved in the child’s life or doesn’t care about the name change, they may sign the petition for the child’s name change and give their permission; however, as the child’s other parent, they also have a right to dispute the proposed name change. If they choose to dispute the proposed change, the petition requires a hearing for a judge to decide.

Family court judges in Arizona make all decisions in a child’s best interest. In a hearing for a disputed name change request the parent requesting the change must present a compelling case to the court showing why it is in the child’s best interest to change their last name. Meanwhile, the other parent presents their reasons to the judge showing why it is in the child’s best interest for the name to remain unchanged. The judge then considers the evidence and testimony from both sides before making the decision they believe is in the child’s best interest.

In What Cases Might a Judge Grant a Petition to Change a Child’s Last Name Without the Other Parent’s Permission?

A judge might grant the parent’s request for a last name change if the other parent was notified of the petition and failed to object or respond, or if they’ve abandoned the child. The judge might also grant the change if it is the child’s preference and the child is of a reasonable age to decide for themselves that they desire the change.

An Arizona family judge also considers both parents’ motives for requesting or disputing a child’s name change before making a decision.