Typically, when a couple gets married, one spouse will assume the last name of the other spouse. If they have a child, that child will take the same surname as the parents. If the couple divorces at some point, the spouse who assumed the surname usually returns to their original last name. But what about a child? What if a parent wants to change their last name too?
Do both parents have to agree?
Michigan Code Section 711.1 controls the change of a minor child’s last name and generally requires the consent of both parents for the change to occur. But even if both parents agree, the child may have a say in the matter as well. If the child is 14 years or older, they must consent to the name change and their agreement must be submitted to the court. If they are under 14 years of age, the court has some discretion. If the court determines the child is old enough to express a preference, the court can take that preference into consideration.
If both parents do not agree, much depends on who has custody of the child. If the parents share joint legal custody, and your ex-spouse does not agree to the name change, there’s nothing you can do – the law requires their consent. But if you have sole custody of your child, you may have options.
If the noncustodial parent had the ability to pay support for the two years prior to the requested name change, but failed to do so, and if that parent has not had substantial contact with the child during that time, a court may permit the name change without their consent. Alternatively, if the noncustodial parent has been convicted of any number of serious criminal offenses, such as child abuse or sexual assault, the law does not require their consent.