By Judy Hale Reed, Esq., Associate Attorney, of Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, P.C.
Under Pennsylvania law, any parent can give their child any surname: the mother’s, the fathers, a hybrid, or an unrelated name. To change the name of a child, however, requires the moving party-that is, the person trying to change the child’s name-to meet the best interests of the child standard. This means that the parent or guardian has to show that the child is better off with a changed name, and it is a difficult burden to prove.
The courts have repeatedly found arguments that a child should have the same name as other siblings or the father ‘to be insufficient reasons’ to change a minor’s name. Where the courts have permitted a party to change a child’s name, there were rare and severe facts, such as no relationship at all with the birth parents, or extreme violence or abuse by the parent whose name the child bore. Absent similarly desperate facts, the courts will not allow a child’s name to be changed. In determining these matters, the courts use a set of criteria that is well established under Pennsylvania case law for evaluating these actions on a case-by-case basis.
If you are interested in learning more about a name change for your minor child’s name, or fighting a petition to change your child’s name, please contact our Pittsburgh law office to speak with an experienced Family Law attorney.