Child Name Changes

For various reasons, some parents want to change their child’s name after a divorce or paternity case. The “best interests of the child” standard is what Florida courts rely on for determining child related issues. How can a child’s name run afoul of the best interests of the child test?

From Elias Alley to Faisel Ali Maqableh

In Kentucky, Ali Al-Maqablh wanted to change the name of his biological child. The Family Court changed the name of his biological child from “Elias Miles Alley” to “Elias Miles Ali Alley”, but Al-Maqablh wanted to change the name to “Faisel Ali Maqableh”.

After the child was born, Alley named him “Elias Miles Alley.” Al-Maqalblh sought to change the child’s name to “Faisel Ali Maqableh” because of the cultural importance of the child’s middle and last names.

Alley argued that the name Maqableh could result in the child’s being socially ostracized due to the prejudice inherent in her small community; she also noted that many people would probably mispronounce it. Alley argued Al-Maqablh currently refers to the child as Faisel while around friends and relatives, and he could continue to do so.

The family court found that changing the child’s name could increase the bond between the child and Al-Maqablh, would not alter Alley’s relationship with the child, would not result in insecurity or lack of identity for the child and could increase a sense of identity for the child, but the proposed name would likely result in regular misspellings and mispronunciations.

It noted potential bullying or harassment in child’s rural community was a factor to consider with regard to the best interest of the child and changing the surname from that of Alley, the current custodial parent, could result in some embarrassment or inconvenience to Alley.

On appeal, Al-Maqablh argued that the family court’s order was culturally insensitive because it rejected giving the child his surname because the people in Trimble County might have difficulty pronouncing it or be racist.

The appeals court found that the trial judge properly applied the best interest test because it considered the child’s stability, fostering familial bonds and minimizing contention between the parents in determining the child’s name.

It made a specific factual finding against Al-Maqablh’s claim that Alley consented to raise the child in accordance with his cultural traditions and, thus, name him in accordance with those traditions.

Florida Name Changes

I’ve written about various tips on Florida divorce law and paternity law. Florida is actually pretty strict about changing a child’s name. Simply because the parents are divorcing, or paternity is at issue, is generally not a sufficient reason on which to grant a change in a child’s surname.

Instead, a child’s surname may be modified only where the change is required for the welfare of the minor. Additionally, the parent petitioning to change a child’s name has the burden to prove that changing the child’s surname is in the child’s best interest.

The Worst Name Changes

It is bad enough that some people are given a last name that sounds weird. But some people willingly create names that make everyone scratch their heads. The following are the best examples of these names:

  • Tyler Gold legally changed his name to “Tyrannosaurus Rex”
  • Steve Bolton changed his name to “Buzz Lightyear”
  • Andrew Wilson changed his name to “They”

The Kentucky appellate case is here.