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Resolving disputes over name changes for children after divorce

Colorado residents may be interested in a recent court decision in New Jersey that brings to light issues of children's names after divorce. The court held that if a child was named by both parents, a change in the child's name after divorce is only appropriate if it is in the best interests of the child.

The New Jersey Supreme Court heard the case of Emma v. Evans, in which the mother of two children began to use a different surname for them after divorce. The father, who the court determined shared legal custody of the children, believed that the children should keep his last name. The mother, however, first used a hyphenated surname and later only her own last name for the children. The court held that, since both parents had jointly agreed on the children's names at birth, the names could only be changed if it was in the best interest of the children.

Outside of New Jersey, there are three main approaches to determining whether a child's name may be changed after divorce. One approach favors keeping the child's original name, unless it can be proven that retaining the name is detrimental to the child. The second approach reverses this, and gives the power of naming to the custodial parent. The third approach simply looks at what is in the best interests of the child. Generally, the court will weigh several factors to determine whether the child's interests are being helped.

Renaming a child is only one of the many issues that come with a divorce in Colorado. An attorney that has experience in settling and litigating child custody issues may be able to help resolve these issues and to adequately protect the interests of both parent and child.

Source: Justia, "And they shall call him...? Post-divorce disputes over children's surnames", Joanna L. Grossman, August 22, 2013

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