If you are going through a marital separation, you are not alone. According to data from the National Health Statistics Reports, close to half of all U.S. married couples eventually get divorced. Although it happens to many families, ending a marriage is never easy — especially for parents who have a young child. After a divorce, some parents want their family to get a fresh start by changing their child’s last name. This raises an important question: Do you have the right to do that? In this article, our Manassas, VA family law attorneys explain what parents need to know about Virginia’s laws on changing a child’s name after a divorce.
Virginia Law: Child Name Change
Under Virginia law (Virginia Code § 8.01-217), any person seeking to change the name of a child may apply to do so in the appropriate circuit court. As a general rule, Virginia courts are willing to give parents considerable discretion to manage their own affairs and the affairs of their children.
After a divorce, if the custodial parent and non-custodial parent both agree that the child’s last name should be changed, our state’s court will tend to presume that doing so is appropriate. For parents seeking to get their child’s name changed in Virginia, it is far easier to do so if they can get the other parent to give their approval. When both parents’ names are on the application, Virginia courts are far less likely to stand in the way.
What to Do If the Other Parent Refuses to Consent to the Name Change
If only one parent has submitted a name change application, Virginia law requires that the other parent be given reasonable notice of the proposed name change. From there, a hearing will be scheduled to determine if a name change is appropriate. Similar to cases involving disputes over child custody or child visitation, Virginia family courts handle child name change disputes under the state’s ‘best interests of the child’ legal standard.
If you are seeking a name change for your child and the other parent has refused to give their consent, or they are actively attempting to block the name change, you need to be prepared to present a strong, compelling legal case that demonstrates why your proposed name change is in the best interests of your child. Your case should be focused on what is best for your child, not what is best or most convenient for you as their parent. If you are locked in a dispute over a child name change, an experienced Northern Virginia family law attorney can help. As was mentioned, whenever it is possible, it is best to try to start by working with the other parent in order to get their consent for the name change.
Get Help From Our Manassas, VA Family Attorneys Today
At Leary Porter Law, our Virginia family law lawyers are strong and compassionate advocates for our clients. If you have questions or concerns about changing your child’s name after a divorce, we are here to help. For a fully private consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us today.