Can I change my child’s last name?

There are times when a parent may want to change a child’s name because of a divorce or a custody matter.  The most likely reason a parent is interested in changing a child’s name is because of a breakdown of the parent’s relationship.  Name changes often involve changing a child’s last name, or surname, but it can certainly include changing the first name.  As you can imagine, changing a child’s first or last name is an emotional issue and one both parents may not agree ought to happen.

Minnesota Statute §259.11 provides a way in which one or both parents can change their child’s name.  There is documentation a parent who wants a name change must fill out.  There is also a court filing fee that is to be paid.  The other parent must receive a copy of that name change documentation.  A court hearing is required and both parents are given an opportunity to explain what they want the judge to do.

While there is a law that allows for a name change, the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1981 in the Application of Saxton case created a five-part test for a court to weigh and consider when a parent requests a name change for their child.  The test is:

  1. The child’s preference;
  2. The effect of the change of the child’s name on the preservation and the development of the child’s relationship with each of the parents;
  3. The length of time the child has had his or her current name;
  4. The degree of community respect associated with the present name and the proposed new name; and
  5. The harassment, difficulties or embarrassment that the child may experience in keeping the child’s current name or the new name.

The Minnesota Supreme Court explained parents can give additional good reasons why they agree or disagree with a name change.

A name change is done on a case-by-case basis.  Often courts consider hyphenating the child’s last name to give the child a connection to both parents.

It is beneficial to speak with an attorney who can help guide your case and discuss the probability of success.

Parents who have questions about the probability of changing a child’s name should contact experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle at (218) 722-2655 to schedule a consultation.

Jessica Sterle