Parents Disagree On Child’s Last Name, Court Decides

heirloom-birth-certWhen unmarried couples have a child, they may disagree about what name to give the child.  Oklahoma Statutes describe the process for bringing the matter to court. Oklahoma judges have broad discretion to decide whether to change a child’s name.

In the recent case of Reed v. Remmert, after the Court established father’s parentage, Dad filed a motion to change the child’s last name to his. In Oklahoma, if the judge finds it in the child’s best interest to carry the father’s last name, the court shall enter an order to that effect.

CHANGING CHILD’S LAST NAME – BEST INTERESTS

At the hearing, the Court considered the following factors to determine whether changing the child’s name would be in the child’s best interests

  • Identification of the child as a part of a family unit;
  • The effect on the child’s relationship with each parent;
  • The motivation of the parties;
  • The effect the failure to change the name will have in furthering the estrangement of the child from a father exhibiting a desire to preserve the parental relationship;
  • The age of the child and how long the child has had the current name;
  • The effect of the change of the child’s surname on the preservation and the development of the child’s relationship with each parent, and, the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname;
  • The possibility that a different name may cause insecurity or lack of identity;
  • The use of a particular surname for a substantial period of time without objection;
  • The preference of the child;
  • Difficulty the child may experience with the proposed surname;
  • Embarrassment or inconvenience that may result if the child’s surname differs from that of the custodial parent.

¶These factors may not all apply in every case. It’s not an exhaustive list, either. Other factors may apply in a different case. In Reed, the court considered all these factors and concluded that the child’s last name should be changed to father’s.  The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

EACH CASE IS DIFFERENT

Unmarried parents often agree on a child’s name. Unfortunately, not everyone gets along so well after their child’s birth.  The first step to address an unresolved naming issue is establishing parentage. Then the court will decide the child’s last name based on the facts of each case. The Court will weigh those facts to decide what name is in the child’s best interests.

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