Parenting orders: what’s in a name?*
Following separation orders will need to be made with respect to providing for the continued shared responsibility of the children. Often the courts are called upon to determine very specific child parenting orders.
One such specific issue order is the child’s surname. Whilst this may seem to many a fairly trivial issue, it is one which can cause significant and unnecessary stress to both the parents and children. If one wishes to follow the tradition, then in the majority of cases the children retain the fathers surname as was probably the case prior to separation. However, in today’s society spouses very often retain their maiden name, and in many marriages some form of hyphenated surname adopting both parents surname has become fashionable. Following separation, not only do the assets get divided, but so does the hyphenated surname.
So come separation what name will the children be known as? Family law litigation is too often “clouded” by the emotion of the parties which unfortunately spills over to unnecessary litigation involving the children. Many fathers will take a very parochial view and expect the children to retain his surname. Whilst the father may be limited in the time he sees children to the contact orders and arrangements made by the court, maintaining the child’s surname is seen as a statement of “ownership”. Conversely, many mothers who wish to punish their spouse will attempt to change the child’s surname to effectively “rid” herself and the children of any link to their father.
There are of course many situations where a change in a child surname may be for a very good reason. The father may have abandoned the children or not be exercising regular contact with the children and the mother may have retaken her maiden name or indeed remarried , and so in the right circumstances it might be in the child’s best interest to adopt the mothers surname. This might be but one example where the circumstances may warrant a change in surname.
The courts do not approve of unnecessary and/or frequent changes to a child’s name as this may cause unnecessary embarrassment and stress to the child. In order to approve a change in the child’s surname the court must be convinced that it is in the child best interests to have such a name change. The child welfare is considered paramount.
*(published Inner Wesern Courier)