LEGAL GUIDANCE FOR ATLANTA RESIDENTS FACING FAMILY LAW MATTERS
By tradition, upon marriage, wives take the last name of their husbands. Many women still follow this tradition or, alternatively, add their husband’s last name to their own name with a hyphen. However, when a couple divorces, it is not uncommon for the wife to want to change her name back to her former, or maiden, name. Furthermore, if the wife retains primary or sole custody of children from the marriage, she may also want to change the names of her children to the same name as her own in order to avoid mistakes and confusion. If you need assistance with a name change or any family law matters in Atlanta or the surrounding area, Rowsey & Stelter can help. We proudly serve clients throughout Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties, including in Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Milton, and Johns Creek.
NAME CHANGES FOR A SPOUSE
To validly have your name changed, you must take certain legal steps. In a divorce proceeding, the simplest method is to specifically petition the court to restore your maiden or prior name. The court is empowered to do this without further legal action. However, if this request is not specifically put in the petition and granted in the proceeding, you must pursue a name change by other means.
Georgia provides a legal process for a name change, whether or not associated with divorce. Any person can petition for a name change in the superior court of his or her county of residence, stating specifically the reason for the change request. Along with the petition, you must meet other requirements, including publishing a legal notice for four consecutive weeks in a paper designated by the court. You must pay fees and bear costs to obtain a name change by this method.
In some cases, it is possible to revert to a former name simply through resuming use of that name, particularly if you have a birth certificate, passport, or other official documentation that can be used to prove identity under that name. However, it is essential to make sure that a legally recognized identity is consistent throughout all critical records, including Social Security Number, driver’s license, bank records, credit records, medical records, and so on. When there is inconsistency, it can lead to serious problems with identity as well as with access to personal information.
CHANGING THE LEGAL NAMES OF CHILDREN FOLLOWING DIVORCE
Formerly, courts looked askance at changing the last name of children upon divorce, even if the mother reverted to her maiden name and had sole or primary custody. Today, although courts will not automatically refuse to grant a name change, they will only do so if it is in the child’s best interest to grant the request. As with all matters related to children in divorce, the court weighs a number of factors. For name changes, these often include:
- The length of time the child has used the father’s name;
- The strength of the father-child bond;
- The strength of the mother-child bond;
- Any emotional need for the child to identify with a new family structure, such as if either parent has remarried; and
- Any other factor that the court deems relevant.
Even if a name change is granted for children, however, it does not sever or disrupt the legal relationship of the father to the children, or the rights, duties, and obligations of both parents as determined by pre-existing court orders regarding custody, visitation, and child support.
As with the mother’s name change, it is critical that any legal name change for a child is accompanied by efforts to make sure that the change is duly noted with respect to all critical and public records, such as Social Security, school, and medical files.
DISCUSS YOUR DIVORCE PROCEEDING WITH AN ATLANTA ATTORNEY
If you need advice in obtaining a legal name change near Atlanta for yourself or your children, the lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter can help. We can advise you on how to address all the requirements needed to make a smooth transition. For a free consultation, contact us by telephone at 770-993-5317, or use our online form to arrange an appointment.