“Can I change my child’s last name?”  Every once in a while a client will ask, and more often they will arbitrarily act on their own, to change the surname of their child without talking to the other parent.  This occurs most frequently when mom reverts back to a maiden name or takes the new spouse’s surname, or when dad wants the child to take his name if the child previously bears only mom’s last name.

Surnames have been used since at least 1066.  They originated from individual reputations, characteristics, occupations, or places of birth and residence.  Surnames were not passed on from generation to generation as they are today. The custom of patrilineal succession (father-to-son) came from England’s social and legal system in medieval times, which vested all rights of ownership and management of marital property in the husband.  King Henry VIII accelerated the trend of paternal surnames, when he required the recordation of legitimate births in the name of the father, and giving rise to the custom and practice of children bearing the names of their fathers.

In California, decisions concerning a child’s last name are based on the best interest of the child, much like child custody and child visitation decisions.  Keeping, changing, or modifying the child’s name is often based on the length of time the child has used the current name, the impact on the child of changing the name, and the effect on the child that changing the name will have on relationships within the family unit.

If your child’s last name has become an issue, please contact us.  We would love to talk to you in person and discuss the family law issues that are important to you.  You can reach the Law Office of Heath L. Baker through our website: www.heathbakerlaw.com or call us at: (951) 222-2228.