New Jersey Divorcee Loses Court Battle To Change Kids Last Names

New Jersey divorcee loses court battle to change kids’ last names

Sharing custody of your children with your ex can be frustrating at best and downright maddening at worst. It is, in some ways, ironic that two people who can’t get along with each other well enough to stay married should be expected to make important decisions together after a divorce.

This is not to say that successful co-parenting is not possible. Many divorced couples are able to put their differences aside in order to continue raising their children together. But a case that recently went before the New Jersey Supreme Court demonstrates that when one parent tries to make an important decision without the other’s approval, a lengthy legal battle is sometimes the result.

A former husband and wife from Burlington County divorced several years ago and the woman was granted primary custody of their two children. She reclaimed her maiden name after the divorce and was bothered by the fact that the children shared a surname with her ex-husband.

Sometime after 2010, the woman brought the issue to court, and a trial judge ruled that she could legally change her children’s last name despite her ex-husband’s objections because she was the custodial parent and her opinion should be given deference.

The ex-husband appealed, and the appellate court reversed the lower court’s ruling. Recently, the case went before the New Jersey Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the appellate court ruling in favor of the ex-husband.

The Court reasoned that the most important consideration when it comes to decisions of this nature are that they reflect the best interests of the children. In light of this, “A primary custodial parent’s choice is an insufficient reason in and of itself to support a change in a child’s surname.”

To be sure, there may be good arguments to be made for why a name change would be in the best interests of the children. However, if the woman wants to continue to pursue the change, she will likely have to return to a lower court with more compelling reasons than simply her personal preference.

Source: Courier-Post, “High court: Father’s last name can stay,” Jim Walsh, Aug. 13, 2013


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