Changing a Child's Name Post Divorce

April 4, 2023

As my last post talked about the reasons and considerations and process women face when changing their last names post divorce, this latest post is about changing the last names of children post divorce.

When does it make sense to change a child’s name and how do courts in Colorado approach these requests? What might be the long term repercussions of changing a child’s last name?

Instances where a last name change might be appropriate:

  • One parent has primary custody
  • One parent was convicted of crimes involving the child or other parent

This is another instance where a court must be involved. The Court has the ability to change a child’s name pursuant to the divorce or an allocation of parental responsibilities case. Although there is no specific law giving the Court the power to change a child’s name in a divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities case, the Appellate Court has ruled that “The trial court has the power, founded in the common law, to order a change of name of a minor child…” In re Marriage of Nguyen, 684 P.2d 258 (Colo. App. 1983).

Another way to obtain a name change for your child would be to file a Petition for a Name Change pursuant to §13-15-101, C.R.S.

After the Petition is filed, a hearing will be set for the Court to determine if the name change is in the best interests of the minor child.   A court has wide discretion in ordering a change of name and should not deny an application unless special circumstances were found to exist. Hammon v. County of Jefferson, 753 P.2d 743 (Colo. 1988).

The Court can consider a number of factors to determine if a name change is in the best interests of a minor child as follows:

  • Motivation of the parent wanting to obtain the name change
  • Length of time the child has used current surname
  • Impact of requested name change on mother-child relationship and father-child relationship
  • Identification of child as part of a family unit
  • Embarrassment, discomfort, or inconvenience that may result if the child’s surname differs from the custodial parent
  • Possibility different name change may cause insecurity or lack of identity
  • Cultural considerations and the child’s identity with his or her heritage
  • Misconduct by parent which would justify a name change*

If you are a parent and have gone through a divorce, what are your thoughts about changing your child’s last name? Can you think of additional factors or considerations not listed above?

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