Parents in blended families frequently are confronted with a situation where a child wishes to change their last name so that their name will be the same as other members of the family.
Parents frequently ask whether they should file a petition for adoption, or whether they can simply petition the Court to change the child’s last name. An adoption proceeding and a proceeding to change name are two very different procedures governed by two different statutes.
If a parent and a step-parent wish to adopt a child, they will have to file a Petition for Adoption. If the biological parent approves of the adoption and the termination of his or her parental rights, he or she will have to sign an Irrevocable Consent to the adoption before a Judge in a courtroom. Because the termination of one’s parental rights is seen as such a serious matter, it must be done in front of a Judge, to make sure the Consent is knowing and voluntary. If the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, the adopting parents will have to prove the biological parent is “unfit,” by one of the means set forth in the Illinois Adoption Act.
If a Petition for Adoption is granted, any future child support obligation of the biological parent is terminated, although that parent will still owe any back child support that was owed prior to the date of adoption. The adopting parents are then treated as if they were the biological parents, which means, should the adoptive parents divorce in the future, each parent has an equal footing in any future custody case, and both parents are equally responsible to support the child.
If the parents simply wish to change the child’s last name, a Petition to Change Name of Minor can be filed with the Court. If the biological parent will not agree to the name change, a hearing is held before a Judge, and the petitioning parents will have to prove it is in the best interests of the child to change names. In deciding what is in the child’s best interests, the Judge must consider: the wishes of the child’s parents; the wishes of the child and his or her reasons for wishing to change names; the interaction the child has with the significant people in his or her life; and the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community. Any child support obligation the biological parent has would remain in place, even if the Petition to Change Name is granted.