After a New Jersey couple divorced, the wife asked a court to change their two children’s last name to her maiden name. (The children had been given the husband’s last name at birth.)
The judge agreed, saying that since the mother was the primary residential parent, it should be presumed that she was acting in the children’s best interests, and her decision should be respected.
But the father appealed, and a higher court sided with him.
The appeals court said that this result might make sense in the case of a child who was born out of wedlock. For instance, if a child were born as a result of a momentary physical relationship between a couple, or during a very brief relationship, then the parent who later assumed responsibility for the child might have a right to choose the most appropriate name.
However, where children are the product of a marriage, and were named by a “marital partnership” with the intent that their names be permanent, one parent can’t simply reverse that decision without the other parent’s consent, the court said.