No matter your background, your last name typically carries symbolic and sentimental value to you. In the United States and in countries around the globe, a child’s last name – often referred to as a surname – can be an indicator of family origins or even religious faith. When someone is born in Georgia and his or her father is known, the child is given the father’s last name. While this tradition of giving a child the father’s surname goes back centuries in time, the rule is not an absolute one. And, when a child is solely raised by his or her mother, or if the child’s father is not involved in his or her life, the custodial parent may seek to change the minor’s last name.
How do I change My Child’s name?
There are three situations under Georgia law in which a child’s last name may be changed. How this may be done, however, is dependent upon whether the child was born to unmarried parents or if the name change is happening with the consent of just one of the child’s parents.
A Child Born Out of Wedlock
The father of a child born to unwed parents may petition a Georgia court to establish the legitimation of the child. Legitimation of a child is the legal method by which the father can claim legal parentage of a child born out of wedlock. At the same time the father requests legitimation, he may also request a change in the child’s last name. The court will determine whether or not changing the surname is in the best interest of the child, and has broad discretion in determining whether to grant the request.
A Child Resulting from Marriage
For a child who results from a valid marriage, a parent may petition a Georgia court located in the county of the minor’s residence for a change in surname. Georgia law requires (1) the written consent of the child’s parent or parents if they are still alive and neither has abandoned the minor; or (2) the written consent of the child’s guardian, in the case where both parents have passed or have abandoned the minor, be filed along with the name change petition. If the parent has failed to contribute to the financial support of the child for the five continuous years or more prior to the name change request, written consent of the parent is not mandated. Should either parent object to the name change request, a Georgia court is not authorized to change the child’s surname.
Name Change without Consent
Beyond the two methods listed above, that may be used to request a surname change, a parent may present a petition to a Georgia court to change the child’s last name and ask the court to evaluate whether or not the change is in the best interest of the child. A parent may submit a request to a Georgia court in which the child resides with details regarding why the name change is necessary. Like many other states across the nation, Georgia recognizes the importance of a child’s last name. For this reason, the likelihood of a unilateral name change in Georgia is minimal.
Georgia Family Law Attorneys
The experienced Georgia attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC, can handle any family law matter you may have. Contact us today to schedule your initial, confidential, case evaluation to learn about your rights and obligations under Georgia law.