Is your maiden name OK for your baby? Naming your child can be a stressful time for parents. The name you give your child will stay with them forever, so most parents spend a great deal of time discussing the various options.
Some parents choose something exotic, some parents choose something that has been in the family for years, and others just choose something that sounds great with the last name.
If you are not married, or if you are going through a divorce, you may have to decide which last name you are going to give your child as well as deciding the first name.
In most states, you can give your child the mother’s maiden name or the father’s last name. Whatever name you give your baby is completely up to you and the father, and is not considered a legal matter.
Can I Give My Baby My Maiden Name? Answer: In Most States, Yes.
Before deciding, you should determine who is going to have custody of the child. While the child’s last name has no bearing on who gets custody of a child, it makes sense for the child to have the last name of the person they are going to spend the most time with, especially if this will be the person signing the child up for school, etc. Ensuring that both you and your child have the same last name will be beneficial for all parties.
Some mothers prefer to go the more traditional route and give the child the father’s last name. This is known as patronymy, the practice of giving a child the father’s surname. This tradition is not universal, as some countries, including Spain, practice the matronymic tradition (using the mother’s name).
Prior to the sixteenth century in England, for example, surnames did not descend by inheritance at all. Instead, an individual adopted his surname voluntarily, or his neighbors conferred it upon him. Surnames were often descriptive. (For example, John’s son may have been known as “Johnson”.) In small towns, where everyone knew everyone else, surnames were not particularly important anyway. But as population increased, and the need to distinguish between individuals with the same first name increased, surnames became more important.
History of Baby Naming Laws
Prior to 1970, many states, by statute or common law, dictated that fathers had a right to have their children bear their surnames. As a result, fathers could insist that the child’s birth certificate reflect that surname. Moreover, if the mother tried to change the surname–post-divorce, for example–she was usually unsuccessful, unless there was evidence that the father had forfeited the right.
In the 1970s, however, the Supreme Court began to recognize a constitutional right to sex equality, rooted in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Courts slowly struck down laws giving fathers the absolute right to name their children. These laws were replaced with ostensibly gender-neutral standards.
If patronymy is what you decide, and you are going through a divorce, you may want to consider hyphenating your name with your ex-husband’s name and your maiden name to alleviate any confusion if you need to show proof of being your child’s mother.
If you are not married to the baby’s father, but you are going to be, you can always give your baby your maiden name until the wedding day actually arrives.
If you are getting divorced, or if you were never married in the first place, and you are going to court for child support, it will not hurt or help your case if your child has your husband’s last name. Paternal rights are determined by paternity, not names.
Laws Vary by State
It is important to note that every state has different laws and rights regarding paternity. If you have any questions regarding your states laws, it is best to discuss your concerns with a lawyer.
So remember, when it comes to determining the last name of your child, it does not matter if he or she has the mother’s or father’s last name. If a surname cannot be agreed upon by both parents, some states have guidelines that will help the parents decide. If you want to know if your state has these guidelines, it is best to check with an attorney who specializes in marital and family court. He or she will be able to discuss your situation more thoroughly.