Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Name Change

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, the saying goes, and a person's name can impact a first impression. For this reason, many people choose to legally change their name. But what if a parent wants to change a child's name? A case recently considered in Miami family court regarding the name change of a minor child shows us how Florida courts analyze the right of a father not listed on a birth certificate to participate in a proceeding for a name change of his purported child. 

The case In re Benitez, 3D17-1502 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) dealt with the issue of a mother seeking to change her child's first name. The mother testified that she knew the identity of the father of her child, but because he was not listed on the birth certificate and his paternity rights had never been adjudicated, she argued she should not have to give him notice of the name change proceedings

The trial court denied the mother's petition, directing that she needed to serve the father with the petition or if he was a non-resident, serve him by constructive notice (i.e. publication). The mother filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing the Florida Statutes granted her sole guardianship rights of her child because the mother had never married the father. Her motion for reconsideration was denied and she appealed. 

The appellate court upheld the court's substantive ruling, holding the father had not been adjudicated NOT to be the father, and therefore, he was entitled to have his position on the name change heard in light of the mother's admission that she was aware of his identity. However, the appellate court noted the current Florida law on this issue needs clarification and by copy to the Office of Legislative Affairs, the appellate court requested the Florida legislature to look into this during the next statutory clarification cycle.

If you are considering a legal name change in Florida, consult with a Miami family law attorney to learn about the requirements for doing so.