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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 27217
Experience:  Attorney with experience in family law.
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I am currently unmarried and pregnant.. From what I heard

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I am currently unmarried and pregnant.. From what I heard in California that a mother can name a baby what she wants. Give any last name etc.
But I have heard of a friend of a friend that the father took her to court and said it was his right to have baby have his last name and it was granted. What is the protocol? I am unsure what to put on the birth certificate.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

A mother can name a child anything she likes. If the father wants to have the name changed later, he is required to get a court order - and he has to convince the judge that the change is in the best interests of the child. Whether the judge would grant the name change depends on a variety of factors, including whether he has any relationship with the biological father. If he files the request, you are entitled to a copy of all court documents, notice of the hearing and the opportunity to appear and argue against the change.

The judge will also consider the reasons for requesting the change - it's not enough to say "He should have my name because it's traditional for a child to have the father's name." In the case of the friend of a friend, there must have been something more, because there is no automatic right for a man to share his name with biological offspring.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Could you please give me a few examples that are everyday, not extreme where a judge may grant a name change to the biological father?

The most common example would be if the father had primary care and custody of the child. Another common example is if the parents later resume their relationship and get married, and the parents want everyone to have the same last name. Those are the most basic, common examples I can think of, but they obviously won't apply to everyone.

In the normal situation where a woman has a child outside of marriage and has the child all week, plus every other weekend, she enrolls the child in school, etc., there really isn't a legal reason to change the child's name. The father's preference can't trump the mother's, because the father has the burden of proving that the change should happen. There has to be something more. Even culture and tradition may not be enough, since that's not really how things are anymore. A huge number of children are born outside of marriage, a lot of women do not change their names when they marry, and it's become very common for the child not to share the father's last name. But I really can't think of any slam-dunk situations where the father would get to change the name, outside of the two examples above. It's very fact-specific, and he'd need a good reason.
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