Should my kids and I change our last name

Long, thanks for reading;

I’ve been divorced for going on 4 years now. We have joint custody of our two kids who are six and eight. My ex just told me that she is in the process of changing her name back to her maiden name. I have NO problem with that but it has restarted something I have been thinking about for years.

I was born and lived till I was eight with my mom’s last name. She met and married my step dad at that time and I was given his name.

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

He is a horrible, manipulative, abusive, alcoholic, violent…I won’t continue, I think you get the point. My mom left him (finally) about a year and a half ago and it has been the best thing for our family (except when he saw my sister outside a restaurant and slugged her in the face). We have cut off all contact with him and restraining orders are in place.

I have wanted to change my name back to my moms’ maiden name for years but I kept it for Anne and the kids. Even when we were first going out and then after we got married she knew I did not like my last name and I had talked about changing it on numerous occasions.

Now that she is changing her name, I see that she has no attachment to the name. I would like to change it but only if I can change the kids name at the same time. I don’t think it will be a big deal for them, remember I did the same thing when I was the same age as my daughter (8) and they know about my step dad and what a horrible person he is.

Both names have the same first letter so I will still be MikeG:slight_smile: Plus I will be getting rid of my English surname and returning to my original Irish last name :):slight_smile:

I mentioned it to Anne this morning and she seemed very surprised about it. She thinks that they won’t be able to understand the reasoning behind the change and has minimized the effect the name has had on me. I really hate knowing that I am in effect furthering his family name when all his entire family has ever brought to others is pain and suffering.

So what do you Dopers think? Have any of you been in a similar situation? Any IL Dopers know what the costs involved are going to be?

I was given a stepfather’s name at about age three. He wasn’t a jerk like you described, but he and my mom only stayed together for 5 years.

My mom said she changed my name " So we’d all have the same last name".

Now it’s many years later, and I’ve still got the stepdad’s name, so do my children, etc.

If I could go back in time on this one, I’d switch back to my original name. It’s too late now in my case, as decades have passed. If I were at your point in life, with young children, I’d change back. For your children’s sake, I’d make this change as soon as possible, rather than waiting for several years.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

I have many friends who have done this for the reasons you describe.

But your situation is additionally complicated by the children. They probably don’t really realize what an abusive jerk your stepfather was - and it is their name. Discuss it with them and find out how they feel about it. Your name can really be tied to who you are (as you know), and to put your kids through a namechange may be more tramatic for them than just living with it is for you. Your kids are at the age where a namechange won’t make a lot of sense to them intellectually - and may be difficult emotionally. I changed my name for my first marriage, and was surprised at how difficult I discovered it to be for me (I changed back to my maiden name - which I kept when I got remarried).

In your case, I’d talk to a professional about this (a child psychologist, your kid’s school counselor) before making any decisions).

(My mother went through an Americanization of her last name when she was in eighth grade and her siblings were your kids’ age. They all turned out fine).

My mother-in-law has her ex husbands name (which is my husbands last name) still. She got remarried a couple years ago and kept her ex husbands name (even though he was kind of a jerk) because she’d had it so long she really didn’t see any reason to change it.

Yep Mike, talk to your kids to see how they feel about it. I totally understand your reasons and I bet your kids will too. I say change it if it has such a negative effect on you.

It cost just under $200 altogether. Process took about 6-8weeks. I had to publish the change in a newspaper that exists only for that very purpose. Then a quick court visit with a dozen others like me, and voila. Very easy, no need for a lawyer at all. I empathize with you not wanting to honor or perpetuate the family name of that man. In Ireland, it was the mother’s family name that was passed on. If the children don’t understand now, they will one day. Safe Journeys to you.

In the United States, I believe that your legal name is the name that you use. To change it, you start using the new one. Period. No legal process of any sort necessary. In practice, you start with some billable accounts and credit cards, move from there to driver’s license, and finish up with social security. I have a friend who changed her name to Con Artist (she’s an artist formerly possessing the first name of “Connie”, and possessing some other interesting notions I think) in this fashion. The only restriction, as far as I know, is that you cannot do it “for the purpose of deception”.

When I worked in family law we dealt with a number of vaguely similar situations. I don’t think it should cause many problems for your children.

As far as changing your name goes, AHunter3 is correct that you can simply start using the new name. That’s what the law says, anyway. But keep in mind you’ll have to deal with an awful lot of people who may not know that that’s the law, and may demand to see a court order anyway. Getting a new passport is said to be particularly difficult without one. It’s probably worth the meager costs of formally changing it just to avoid the hassle.

If it’s that important to you, go ahead. But do go through the local courts. It’s not that expensive, and it will make your life easier later if you have the paperwork.

It is a hassle, though. I changed my name when I got married, and I had to go change it at the bank, on my mortgage, with social security, driver’s license bureau, etc etc. Took about six months to get it all straight.

A friend of mine reversed the Anglicization of his surname, and went back to the original Irish version. It was a bit of a hassle, but is perfectly legal and made him happy.

I think you need to give your kids a choice of whether they change their names or not, regardless of what you do.

I also think, whether or not they understand and agree with your reasons, if they change they will suffer a lot of abuse from their peers.

So I agree you should speak with a child psychologist about problems the kids will likely fix.

I don’t think there’d be abuse from peers. Why would there be?

I’d talk to the kids, Mike. I don’t know that I think it is necessarily going to be a BFD needing a psychologist’s intervention. I’d offer them the choice of using their mother’s name as well. It seems to me that the ideal time to do it with them is at the time where the significant adults are changing their names.

FWIW my father’s family came to NZ at young ages and not so young ages and everyone changed names. They were pretty drastic changes too. Most of them went back to the original Hungarian names when they were adults.

Which is something you should be prepared for.

One of my distant friends had her name changed on her as child for similar reasons. Resenting the name change (“my mother may have hated him, but I never knew him and it was my name”) she changed it back as an adult.

There were many other issues in her relationship with her mother, but her mother “arbitrarily” changing her name on her to a name she didn’t like was the focus of a lot of the issues they had.

I’d go ahead now, while the kids are young. It’s not like you’re stepfather has any claim of blood relationship or family pride. I think I’d hesitate to change a child’s name from that of their biological parent, simply because the adults no longer wanted a relationship, but this is rather different.

I remember a girl on my class thirty-plus years ago who had her name changed when her mother re-married. I don’t believe anyone gave her a hard time about it and divorce is much more common now.

I’ve always been kind of annoyed at my father’s ex because she DIDN’T change hers. I didn’t mind her keeping the last name so much, but nearly fifty years later she was still in the phone book as Mrs. K. There comes a time to let go, right?! Anyway, that was my mom’s name, dammit!

Good luck with whatever you decide. The only thing I’d really emphasize is that the kids should be in on the decision. Keep them informed and give them as much choice as you can. Definitly go for counselling if they’re having a problem with it and above all else, be honest about your reasons.

When I was five, my mother re-married. My new step-father legally adopted me, thus giving me his last name. Being so young, the only complication was learning to write and spell the new last name. Even if the other kids do give them a little teasing at first, they’ll forget about it pretty quickly. Since I was in first grade, the teasing only lasted about a week.

One word of caution, though. Get your kids new birth certificates, with the new last name. My mom forgot to do this, and it was a big hassle for me later. (When getting a driver’s license, etc.) It is pretty inexpensive, but it needs to be issued from the hospital(s) where they were born, and filed at the courthouse. You will need legal documentation of the name change to get the new cert. from the hospital. You will also need to file the new name with the social security office.

Trust me- It will save a lot of stress later on.

My sister wants to change her daughter’s surname to our family name. When her daughter was born, she was given her father’s name at his insistence, He has since dropped out of her life and as far as anyone knows, now lives in Nova Scotia. (We are in Ontario) They were never married, if that makes any difference.

My sister found out there’s only one caveat: She needs the father’s permission, or at least proof that everything possible was done to find the guy to try getting his permission.

I don’t know what the laws are where you are, but I’m sure that if you proceed, you’ll find out what the legal steps are. Hopefully your ex-wife won’t stand in the way if her permission turns out to be necessary.

My niece is only 8 herself but seems to understand why her mom wants to change her last name. She has expressed that she wants to have the same last name as her mother. Whether that would change in the future…who knows.

I believe that in Ontario you can also use any name you like without going through the legal process. I think the name would be known as a “AKA”, as in: Charlie Smith, AKA Charlie Brown, or what have you. I do know of one case where the schools allowed a kid to use a different last name than the one on her birth certificate. The school did, of course, have the child’s legal name on file.

Good luck :slight_smile: