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Getting a divorce is never an easy thing. When you go through it, you must sort through a maze of issues related to the dissolution of your shared life with a spouse. The most difficult among those issues often relate to your children.

A divorce involving children typically ends with one of the two parties gaining custody of the children or reaching an agreement on joint custody. But what happens if you remarry and wish to change your children’s last names? Or what if you no longer want your children to share their last names with your former spouse?

Here in Virginia, the route to changing your child’s last name after a divorce begins in the circuit court that covers the city or county where the child lives. But from there, there are a few different paths you might take. Here’s an overview of the process.

Requesting a Name Change for a Minor

The first step in the process of changing your child’s name after a divorce is to fill out an Application for Change of Name for a Minor. It’s a standardized court petition made specifically for the situation. But there are two ways to fill out the form: As a single-parent petition or As a joint application

If your former spouse is willing to agree to the name change, you can both fill out the appropriate sections of the form. From there, you can submit the completed, notarized form to the court along with the child’s birth certificate and a filing fee. If everything’s in order, a circuit court judge will likely approve the petition, and the change is complete. But if your former spouse doesn’t agree, things will get a bit more complex.

Proceeding Without the Consent of Your Former Spouse

If your former spouse doesn’t agree to the name change, or you can’t reach them to get their consent, you’d instead fill out the form alone. Then, the court will set a hearing date and require you to serve your former spouse with notice of the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear both sides and then decide if the name change is in your child’s best interests. If it is — and there’s no other legal reason to deny the request — they will grant the name change petition.

Retaining Legal Council

In any case, it’s always a good idea for you to have a lawyer on your side when you go through the process of changing your child’s name after a divorce. This is especially true if your former spouse plans to contest the change in court. The experts here at FIDE Law have a wealth of experience navigating the name change process and can use it to help your court petition to succeed. So before you go it alone, contact us today so we can help you to make sure your efforts to change your child’s name succeed with a minimum of stress and hassle.

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