Can I Give My Baby My Maiden Name?

Can I give my baby my maiden name?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.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

debbie July 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

my mother has 2 more children who i have never met, she said she never married the father but i have sent for the birth certificate of one of the 2 children and on the bit where it states “name, surname and maiden surname of mother” it states that her name is the same as the fathers, then “otherwise” her previous married name (or one of her previous married names as she married several times??), then “formerley” so all together it states 3 names but she said she didn’t marry the babys father so how could she call herself by his name on the birth certificate and what does “otherwise” mean


Everyday Jane Says September 14, 2012 at 2:28 am

We are so thrilled to see an article that finally lets women know that they should give their children their surname. Woman go through the physical for 9 months and a life time of taking care of that child. Mothers should be honored and the best way is for the child to represent by having the mothers name.


cheryl January 14, 2013 at 2:25 am

My husbands last name sucks so we sent with my last name for our son. It was my husbands idea and I was initially against it,,,but his last name really is terrible. He says he wants to change his to my last name too. Times have changed.


Arizonabart November 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I actually had a question and was wondering if anyone could answer it; I am a single expecting mother and I have my mother’s last name, NOT my fathers. I was actually wondering if I could give my child MY fathers last name (even though I have my mothers last name) or would I have to change my last name to my fathers last name first? I have asked a few people and they said that I “can name my baby whatever I want”. But I was hoping to get a for sure answer. Please help me!


Morgan December 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

My question is I’m leaguly divorced I chose to keep my ex husbands last name the same as my three kids. Butt I’m having a baby any day now witch is not my ex husbands but I chose not to give the new baby its dads last name since I have my ex husbands last name do I have give the baby it or can I give her my maiden name even though its not my last name? Pleas help I have less then a week.


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