Changing a child’s surname

In the context of changing an adult’s surname, it is common for a divorcing spouse to make such a request within the Petition for Dissolution and to be granted the authority to change one’s surname in the Decree of Dissolution. Outside of the context of a dissolution proceeding, a party must complete a Petition for Name Change and file the same in any district court division within the county of a party’s residence. RCW 4.24.130. Photo ID may be required. If a sealed name change is required, the petition must be filed with the Superior Court.

Name change fees will vary depending upon the number of persons named in the Order. Individual petitions must be submitted for each person and minor child, but only one order is necessary.

Within a parentage action (where the parents of the child are not married), it is often common for the parents of a child to dispute that child’s surname. The Washington Supreme Court has used RCW 26.26.130(3) as the legal basis to change the name of the child when it is found to be in the best interests of the child. Once a surname has been selected for a child, be it the maternal, paternal or some combination of the two, a change in the child’s surname can be granted only when the change promotes the child’s best interests.

In determining these best interests, the court may consider, but is not limited to, the following factors: 1) the child’s preference; 2) the effect of the change of the child’s surname on the preservation and the development of the child’s relationship with each parent; 3) the length of time the child has borne a given name; 4) the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname; 5) and the difficulties, harassment or embarrassment that the child may experience from hearing the present or the proposed surname. In weighing these factors to reach a decision, the trial court must set out its reasons for granting or denying the application to change the minor’s surname. Daves v. Nastos, 105 Wn.2d 24, 31, 711 P.2d 314 (1985).

Seek legal advice if wish to change your child’s surname or if the other parent wants to do so without your consent.