When you get married, you take your spouse’s name. Or so we thought. It turns out, taking your partner’s last name isn’t the only way to merge your identity with theirs. In fact, fewer and fewer couples are doing it—so much so that in some circles, “keeping your own last name after marriage” has almost become a marker of commitment or a marker of impending divorce. If you have kids, however, keeping your maiden name can have some unexpected consequences. The law is different in every state in America – as well as different in many other countries around the world. That means it’s important to be aware of the laws where you live and any potential implications they might have on your children once they reach adulthood and begin applying for jobs, licenses and other services commonly requiring proof of parental identity.
What are the laws for kids and last name changes?
First, let’s make sure we’re clear on the laws regarding name change generally. There are several factors that determine whether a name change is possible and what it entails: – Who’s asking for the name change: In most cases, minors cannot request a name change on their own, and instead need to have their parents file the request on their behalf. – Where the person lives: Name change laws vary from state to state. – Whether the name change is voluntary or involuntary: If someone is convicted of a felony or has a child out of wedlock, they might be ordered to change their name as part-and-parcel of their sentence. – The reason for the name change: Divorce, marriage, child birth, etc. can all be valid reasons for a name change. – Whether the person has used their new name for a certain period of time: Most states require you to have used your new name for a period of time before a legal name change becomes official.
Can you change your child’s name after marriage?
In most cases, no. A child’s name cannot be changed unless they’re adopted by their stepparent or legal guardian. That said, some states permit an exception for biological parents who are married and want to change their child’s name to match their own.
Why you shouldn’t change your kid’s name when you get married
First and foremost, legally changing your child’s name is a big pain in the rear end. It can take a year or more to go through the court system, and you’ll likely have to pay a small fee. The process is extra complicated if your child has a common name. You’ll also want to consider the social and psychological implications of changing your child’s last name. For kids, a name is a source of identity, a way of connecting with their heritage and the people who came before them. It’s also a key part of forming relationships with other people: Think about the way we introduce ourselves and others by sharing names. When you change your child’s name, you’re essentially robbing them of a key source of identity.
How to decide whether to keep your own name or your child’s
If you’re keeping your own name, you’ll want to consider how it might affect your child in the long term. If you’re hoping to pass on a family name, for example, it may be easier for your son or daughter to adopt your last name. That said, you may also want to consider the needs of your child. If you have a daughter who wants to keep her name and pass it along to her own children, it may be easier for her if you take her name and let her pass it along rather than having her inherit your name. If you’re taking your partner’s name, you’ll want to consider what this says about your relationship to them and their own family’s history and heritage. For example, if your partner is taking your name, it may be easier for your child to adopt their partner’s last name and pass it down to their own children.
Should you have a child with the same last name as yours?
In the past, this was more common. Today, it’s far less common, but there are still some situations where it may make sense. If you and your partner have different last names and are both keeping them, you may want your child to have the same last name as both of you. Or, if one of you has a really unusual or hard-to-spell last name, you may want to give your child your partner’s last name and make things a lot easier for them. If you and your partner are both changing your names and want to give your child both names, you may want to consider giving your child the same last name as both parents. Or, if one of you is giving their name to the child and the other partner has a hard-to-spell or difficult-to-pronounce name, you may want your child to have the same last name as the parent giving their name.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s a personal decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping your own name, changing your child’s name or giving them both names. The key is to make an informed decision and consider the implications for your child and yourself.