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Can you change a child's name after a divorce?

After you and your ex split, it became increasingly clear that your ex wasn't planning to be around for any part of raising your child. Now, your child has come to resent even sharing the same last name as their father.

You certainly don't want to make your child wait until they're an adult to change their name, but what can you do? Plenty.

Illinois has provisions in the law for just this sort of situation. When the biological parents of a child don't live together and the non-custodial parent isn't willing to provide their written consent for the name change -- or simply can't be found -- you can still petition the court for a name change. Here are the basics you need to know:

  • If you know your ex's whereabouts, you must send notification via certified mail of your request to the court. If they cannot be located, you will have to publish the notice in a local paper for a period of time before you can proceed. Both of these actions give the child's other parent appropriate notice of the impending request and an opportunity to object.
  • You want to tell the court why the name change is important. Your child's general dissatisfaction with their name and the fact that they have been abandoned by their other parent is likely sufficient. Other reasons, including situations where public associations tied to the child's name are largely negative (in instances, for example, where the child's parent has been convicted of a particularly heinous crime) can also gain approval by the court.
  • As always, the court will make its decision based on what seems to be in the child's best interests. Your child's age, maturity level and feelings are likely to be factored in to this decision -- and can carry considerable weight.

If you're faced with a complicated family legal question, consider talking to an attorney about the situation. It's often the best way to find some clarity and direction that can help.

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