Can I Change My Child’s Name Without the Father’s Consent?

Can I Change My Child's Name Without the Father's Consent? This is the first question that should have been asked by the mother featured recently in The New York Post article titled, “I hate my son’s name because it reminds me of my ex. Should I change it?”

According to the mom, neither she nor her four-year-old son Jake like his name, and both want to change it. The mom said she hates saying Jake’s name because it reminds her of her ex (which happens to be Jake’s father) who chose the name but who is no longer in their lives.

But can Jake’s mom change her son’s name? If she needs the father’s consent, then she might have a problem.

It doesn’t sound like Jake’s parents have an amicable relationship considering his mom dislikes the mere thought of his dad and has no problem with sharing her animus with the general public. If the feelings are mutual, it’s hard to imagine the dad would consent to changing the very name he chose for his own child.

If this family lived in North Carolina (they don’t), then Jake’s mom would need his dad’s consent to change their son’s name. North Carolina law requires the consent of both parents to change the name of a minor child.

But there are exceptions. You can change the name of your child without the other parent’s consent if one of these exceptions applies.

One exception allows for a parent to change the name of a child without the other parent’s consent if the other parent has abandoned the child. 

While the mom said her son’s father was no longer in their lives, that claim (even if true) does not mean the father legally abandoned the child. In the context of a North Carolina name change, “abandonment” is a legal determination that must be made by a judge or clerk of court, upon proper application and service on the other parent. Generally, abandonment means a parent’s willful neglect or intentional conduct showing a settled purpose to forego all parental duties and refusal to perform natural and legal parental obligations of care and support.

This doesn’t mean a parent can change their child’s name without informing the other parent. Even if one parent has abandoned the child, the parent who wants to change their child’s name must still provide the other parent with proper notice of the proceeding as required by law.

Another exception to the law requiring both parents’ consent to change a child’s name is when the non-petitioning parent has been convicted of one of the following offenses against the child or their sibling: child abuse, certain sex offenses, incest, or other violent crimes.

For more information about minor child name changes in Winston-Salem, Clemmons, Kernersville, or any of the surrounding areas, visit the Forsyth County Clerk of Court website.

If you are interested in changing the name of your minor child, with or without the other parent’s consent, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Hartsoe and Associates, P.C. Please call 336-725-1985 or fill out our contact form.