Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Name Change

Unmarried parents who are involved in a Florida paternity case may dispute a change in the child’s name. In Bowman v. Hutton, 1D18-3400 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019), the parties disputed a change in the child’s last name. The court hyphenated the child’s last name using both parents’ last names and the mother appealed.

The evidence showed the mother named the child at birth and the parents were never married. The child only carried the mother’s last name. The father, as part of a paternity action, requested that his last name be added to the child’s name by hyphen. He argued the child’s name should show a connection to both parents. The mother opposed the name change because she argued it would place a stigma on the child associated with being born outside of wedlock.

On appeal, the trial court’s decision to change the child’s last name was reviewed for abuse of discretion. The appellate court relied on established Florida law which holds, “[A] name change is proper only where the record affirmatively shows that it is required for the welfare of the child. The proponent of the name change carries the burden of proof, and conclusory assertions are insufficient. A finding of paternity cannot be the sole basis for a name change.”

Thus name change was reversed, with the appellate court holding: “[T]he trial court did not explain how the name change is in the child's best interest, and the record does not affirmatively show that the name change is required for the welfare of the child. The Father's conclusory testimony that the child's name should reflect an identity with both parents is insufficient to prove that the name change is in the child's best interest. Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the name change. We reverse that aspect of the final judgment and remand with directions for the trial court to enter an amended judgment restoring the child's surname to that of Hutto.”

If you are looking to change the name of a child in Florida, find out what is needed to do so in your particular case. A consultation with a Miami name change lawyer may help you decide the best way to proceed.