Here are the basics about changing your child's legal name when you get divorced in New Jersey.
Can I change my son's name as part of my divorce proceedings?
No, in New Jersey you cannot change your child's name as part of the divorce proceedings. However, you can start different court procedure to change your child's name.
Will my child's other parent have to agree to the name change for our child?
In most cases, the court will require that your child's other parent agrees to the name change. However, the court can order the name change without the consent of the other parent if it finds the change to be in the best interest of the child.
What factors will the court consider when figuring out what's best for the child?
In analyzing what's best for the child, the court may consider:
- why the parent wants the name changed
- why the other parent does not want the name changed
- the quality of the relationship of the child with each parent
- length of time child has used surname
- the child's identification as a member or part of family unit
- the possible impact of the name change on the child
- what name the child wants, depending on the age of the child, and
- anything else that is important to the situation.
What is the process for changing my child's name?
Here is a summary of what you'll need to do to change your child's name in New Jersey:
- File forms and pay fees. First, you must fill out a set of forms and send them to the court with a filing fee. If you're changing the name of more than one child, you'll need to fill out one set of forms for each child, but there will be only one filing fee. You will make two copies of each form – one for you and one for the court. With the filing fee, you will send two copies of each form for each child. You will also send a self-addressed return envelope, so that the court can mail a set of forms back to you.
- Publish notifications. When court returns the forms to you, the packet will include a date for the hearing. You will have to take out an ad in a newspaper announcing the date of the hearing. Making you do so is the court's way of ensuring that anyone who might oppose your request is aware of it. You will also have to notify anybody else that might be interested – like the child's other parent or other family members. You will have to send proof to the court that you made these notifications.
- Attend the hearing. Go to the court on the assigned day and time. The judge will ask you questions about your child and why you want the name changed. The judge will also hear from anyone else who appears in court to support or object to your request.
- Publish the court's decision. After the hearing, you must publish the court's decision in the newspaper and send certified copies of the final judgment to certain government agencies.
For detailed instructions and the required forms, get the packet called How to Ask the Court to Change the Name of Your Minor Child or Cómo Pedir que el Tribunal Cambie el Nombre/Apellido de su Menor from the New Jersey Court Self Help Center's website.
Should I hire a lawyer to change my child's name?
You don't have to hire a lawyer, but in some cases it's a good idea. The New Jersey Self Help Center provides a packet with instructions and forms so that you can complete the process yourself. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer or if you don't expect any argument from your child's other parent, then as long as you feel comfortable filling out court forms and appearing in court, you can do it yourself without a lawyer. However, if you think that your child's other parent will object to the change, or if you know that you won't be comfortable representing yourself in court (perhaps in front of your ex-spouse), then hiring a lawyer will be a good choice. An experienced lawyer will argue your case to the judge with confidence and skill –- and a lawyer won't get flustered by the presence of your ex. A lawyer can also prepare you for exactly what to expect in the courtroom.
Learn More About Divorce in New Jersey
Get more information about divorce in New Jersey on Divorcenet.com's New Jersey Divorce and Family Law page.