Changing a Child’s Name in Virginia

The case of In re A.V.T.A. demonstrates a circumstance where a child’s last name may be changed. 

Facts

            The child (“Child”) whose name was at issue in this case had a hyphenated combination of the natural mother’s (“Mother”) maiden name and the natural father’s (“Father”) surname. However, Mother remarried and took the last name of her husband (“Step-father”), and, naturally, so did all of the kids Mother and Step-father had together. Child felt distressed about having a different last name and Mother wanted to take her maiden name off of the hyphenation in Child’s name so that Child’s new last name would be a hyphenated version of Father and Step Father’s surnames. Father objected because he felt it would damage his relationship with Child. 

Opinion

            In order to change a child’s name, it must be in the child’s best interest and also not diminish any significant ties between the child and the parent whose last name the child carries. Each name change case is determined on a very fact-specific basis. In this case all parents cared for the child and made an effort to work together, so the main issue was the child’s confusion about her last name. The court took into consideration Child’s distress, Father’s concerns, and the Mother’s behavior of sometimes leaving Father’s surname off of important papers and came to the decision that there was not enough evidence to prove that Mother was trying to push Father out of Child’s life. The court then decided that a name change would be in the Child’s best interest and granted the petition to change Child’s name. 

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Editorial Assistance By: Michael Gee – Law Clerk

H. Van Smith
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