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Unmarried And Dating: Should Your Child Take The Dad's Last Name?

The key is coming to a decision that brings harmony to your home.

Motherhood

My daughter likes her last name but talks openly about changing it. It is a perfectly adequate name, but different from mine and my husband-to-be. The thought of him and me having the same last name makes her feel left out or, in her words, alone. Although she's only been on this earth for seven years, she exudes an incredible sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. We have discussed the possibility of changing her last name through adoption since her father is non-existent and has never played an active role in her life. I want her to have autonomy over the decisions that affect her. But even with her deep albeit short consideration for this process, I think we need more time before making such a final decision.

The key is balance, explaining both sides, and coming to a decision that brings harmony to our home. Even more importantly, what brings her peace.

Reasons Why Your Child Should Take the Father's Last Name

Children usually take the father's last name unless their mother wishes them to have a different one. I feel like it establishes a connection between them at birth and allows the child to carry the legacy of their father's family. If two people are in love and decide to have a baby, then it's their prerogative.

I guess I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I gave my daughter her father's last name because it made sense at the time. We were not married, but that was not a prerequisite for me. It established his paternity and our love for each other at the time.

Reasons Why Your Child Should Not Take the Father's Last Name

Giving the child the father's last name is an antiquated tradition. Establishing a family legacy is not just about the last name; it is about the story we want to tell. If both parents are in agreement, they can choose whatever name works best for their child.

Sometimes we are given the gift of knowing that the man isn't ready for his parental duties, and we can determine early if the relationship is going to work out or not. This can make it easier for a woman to give the child her last name to account for any future disappointments.

In my situation, our child has no attachment to her father's last name and has requested to change it. And to change it, we have to go through a lengthy process of getting it changed legally. This particular process is only necessary if the child's father signs the birth certificate. A birth certificate is a legal document, and when he signs it, he is taking legal responsibility for the child and gets fifty percent of decision-making power.

According to the NY Courts: "You can ask the court to change a child's name if you are the child's biological or adoptive parent, the child's legal guardian, or next friend. A name change is not an adoption.

"Changing your child's name to your spouse's or domestic partner's name will legally change your child's name, but it will not legally make your spouse or domestic partner your child's parent. For example, if your child is from a previous relationship and you now change your child's last name to your current spouse's name, your spouse will NOT be your child's legal parent. The only way to do this is to do an adoption."

What happens if the non-consenting parent contests the name change?

The Family Law Self-Help Center reports, "If one parent will not agree to have a child's name changed, the other parent can file papers to request the change. The non-consenting parent must be served with copies of the name change papers and given a chance to object. A judge may or may not grant a child's name change without the other parent's consent."

A name is important because it establishes personal identity and individuality. At the end of the day, you have to make the best decision for your child. A failed relationship is not the main reason for not giving your child their father's last name. There are plenty of healthy co-parenting relationships that come out of a break-up. However, children cannot speak for themselves, so they need you to advocate for their future.

We're still in the process of considering if the name change is right for us or not. But, I'm sure when we - my daughter and me - make the decision, it'll be made in love and not lack.

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