Changing a Minor Child’s Name
The decision to change a child’s name is a big one, and Illinois courts recognize that it should not be done lightly. Under Illinois law, if a parent wishes to change a child’s name, they can do so rather easily with the support of the other parent. The Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 states that “on the request of both parents, the court shall order a change in the child’s name.” 750 ILCS 46/802(h).
However, if only one parent wishes their child’s name to be changed, the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure is the controlling law. 735 ILCS 5/21-101(c). Illinois treats changing a child’s name as an incident to custody, which means it uses a similar standard to custody determination. In Re. Marriage of Charnogorsky, 302 Ill. App. 3d 649, 658 (1st Dist. 1988). Thus, the determination is based on the best interests of the child by clear and convincing evidence.
In determining the best interests of the child, the Court will consider “all relevant factors including: the wishes of the parent, the wishes of the child, the interaction and interrelationship of the child with their parents, and the child’s adjustment to their home, school, or community.” 735 ILCS 5/21-101(c).
The burden to show that the name change would be in the best interests of the child is on the parent wishing the name change, especially since conflicting desires of the parents essentially cancel each other out. Stockton v. Oldenburg, 305 Ill. App. 3d 897 (4th Dist. 1999). Stockton held that a name change for a child that “could be nice” was not enough to show clearly and convincingly that the name change would be best for the child.
The wishes of the child, while being considered, are also understood to be products of the pressures upon the child to please their parents, especially after a change in circumstance like a divorce and especially in a situation in which the child maintains a relationship with both parents.
Overall, changing the name of a child without the support of the other parent requires a compelling reason of why the change would be best for the child. Considerations to determine that will include the parent’s wishes, the child’s wishes, the relationship between the child and their parents, and the child’s adjustment in their lives.