What’s in a Name?

            Changing a child’s name is an issue that comes up frequently in paternity actions.  Sometimes one parent will not have had any input in selecting a child’s name and will want changes to the entire name.  More frequently the dispute will be on what last name the child should have. 

            A.R.S. §12-601 governs changing a name in Arizona.  This statute requires the party requesting a change of name for a child to avow that he or she has not been convicted of a felony or convicted of a crime involving false statements or misrepresentations about another person’s identity.  The movant must also affirm that the name change is not requested for the purpose of furthering or committing a crime, to release the child or the parent from financial obligations, or to harm a property right in the child’s original name.

            Additionally, when a name change is requested on behalf of a child, and the parents are not in agreement on the name, the family law judge must also consider the factors outlined in Pizziconi v. Yarborough, 868 P.2d 1005 (1993).  Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals directed the court to consider the following:

            A.        The child’s preference

B.         The effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child’s relationship with each parent

            C.         The length of time the child has borne a given name

D.        The difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing the present or proposed name

            E.         The motive of the parents

F.         The possibility that the use of a different name will cause insecurity or lack of identity

            The court will utilize these factors and any other relevant information to determine what name is in the best interests of the child.

-Erin Fox