Wedding Customs & Traditions Forum

Changing Last Name

I am getting married next June to my English fiancé. We are going to live in England, and I plan to take his last name as my own. But I've been hitting a bit of confusion as to how to do it, as I also have a 4 year old daughter (who will be 5 at the time of the wedding) who Ben (my FI) will be adopting. Currently, my daughter carried my last name. Her father is not in the picture at all. He showed up for about two years (from the time she was 1-3) and then took off to Mexico. There is no child support and no visitations, and I plan on having his rights legally revoked at the same time that Ben adopts her. So my delimma is this: Do I change my daughter's last name as well? And how do you deal with reteaching a child their last name? Ben and I plan to have another child sometime in the future, and of course he/she will bear our last name. Would it be more fair to change my daughter's name to unify her with the family, or would it be unfair to make her change?

Re: Changing Last Name

  • If your fi is adopting your daughter I would say you would change her last name. Explain to her that since your fi will be your new husband and her new daddy that you will have his name now and that when she has a little brother or sister they will have that name to. I don't think it will be that hard for her to understand, most 4 year olds are pretty smart.
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  • You will need to hire a lawyer to have your daughter's father's parental rights terminated. You must do this before you can begin the adoption process, so you should probably be talking to a lawyer now if you want to do this right after the wedding. The lawyer can explain the name change proceedure for her at the same time. You should probably work all of this out before you move to England, because a US court will have jurisdiction, and litigating from overseas will get really expensive really quickly. As far as changing her name, children typically change their last name when they are adopted. At 5, you can explain it to her in terms that she understands, that you are getting married and decided to take his name, and he will become her new daddy, so she can have his name too. If she has your name and you are changing your name, I would just change hers as well. She's young enough that it wouldn't be any big hassle or problem for her.
  • I would change her name, especially since you are changing yours. I have a friend who's mother remarried when she was 5 (after her father passed away) and she was adopted by her stepfather and took his last name. She's always called him "dad" and seen him as her father. The only sort of funny part is that his last name is Jewish, so people used to ask if she was Jewish, or half-Jewish. She would just say something along the lines of, "No, both my parents are atheists, and it's actually not my birth name - my dad's not my biological father."
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  • I agree w/ PP. Make sur eyou are in conversation w/ a lawyer about all of this now to save yourself and your FI a lot of expense. I also agree w/ PP that if you are taking your new husband's name and he is adopting your daughter, she will probably WANT to have the same name. Kids a sharper than we give them credit for, and I can't even begin to tell you how many kids in mized families I have known who at ages even younger than 5 were excited that their names were finally all going to "match." Especially if you are planning on more children, your daughter will want to feel like she is an equal part of her new daddy's life as any children who may come later.
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  • I agree with a lot of the other posters here. You can change your name relatively easily because you will have a legal document. It will be harder to change your daughter's name. And you will need a court order terminating her father's rights. It takes A LONG TIME, trust me, so you might want to start now. Best of luck!
  • Don't you think it might take less time considering that the birth father is in Mexico with no way to contact him?
  • you could always hypenate her last name. your last name - his last name. my kids have my last name as well as fi's last name.. and when we are married i'll just add fi's last name to mine and my kids and I will have matching lastnames... and we will continue to give any future children of ours both lastnames ... just a suggestion. Good Luck!!!
  • Just one thought I haven't seen anyone suggest yet...what about asking your daughter what she wants? As a four year old she should be able to understand the change of her name (likely not what it means) but as others have said if you explain what it means and what will happen, then give her the choice I feel like you are covering all your bases. Plus she will feel like she has some say in the process, which I think would likely help to unite your new family (because I assume she probably would like a name change as long as her relationship with your fiance is good). Just a thought. Good luck! -Lindsay
  • I don't really plan to hyphenate my name, though I had thought about it for her. Still, it bothers me that her name wouldn't match with her siblings to-be. Asking her is not a bad idea at all, and I'm pretty sure she'd be up for it. The very first time she met my now FI, she called him "Daddy." We discouraged it at first, because you never know what's going to happen, but she's testing the waters with calling him "Dad" again, and she really, really loves him. She loves England and his family as well, and has already mentioned (of her own accord, no prompting and no conversation leading) that she wants a new house and wants to stay with Ben and myself, and that we could have Ms. Karen (MIL) and James (BIL) over to visit. Blah @ legal details. It's a shame that parents who abandon their children don't automatically surrender their rights after x-period of time instead of having to have them legally revoked.
  • I just can't keep mum on this one. As a child therapist, I have to agree with lbj. A four year old actually IS impacted by a name change whether it appears that way to adults or not. Children may not verbalize their thoughts about these types of things because they don't know how to put what they are feeling into words "Mommy, I'm feeling uncertain about what this means with regard to my personal identity" is unlikely to be in the vocabulary of a 4 year old. That doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings about it. I would really encourage you to have not just one, but a few ongoing conversations with her (in language she can understand) about the many changes happening (terminating Dad's rights, move overseas, name change, adoption, etc). This is a lot for a four year old to adjust to. That is not to say that a four year old can't adjust to these things, just that it is a LOT. Have you considered individual child therapy for her or family therapy for the three of you to help ease the process of adjustment? I really believe that proactive therapy (before a problem surfaces) in the face of major life changes can be helpful. This is the same reason I recommend premarital counseling to couples who are blissfully happy... because there is an enormous amount of adjustment around the corner and it can help to talk about it before hand. Don't forget, you're about to embark on some pretty big changes yourself! It sounds like you're excited not just about Ben, but also about all the thrilling changes that come along with marrying him. Good luck to the three of you, and congratulations on all that you have found together.
  • turl, I fully realize that my daughter would be affected by a name change, because she is only just now really building an identity in herself with her current name. It is the same as my last name, and never have been the same as her biological father's last name. I do not thinking having a discussion with her about terminating a father who's never been around's rights is appropriate at this stage in her life. The few times he did visit her before saying that he wouldn't be back, she was agitated during his visits. And don't blame it on her picking up my feelings. As per the restraining order, I was never around during the visits. They were supervised by a third party. And as per my mother's example, I've never spoken ill of him to or around my daughter. My daughter and I have already been in talks about moving. I have asked her several open-ended questions, including how she'd feel about living with Ben, and living in England. She always gets so excited about the prospect of living in England. She fell in love with Ben's family, and also with several of the places that we visited. It seems sometimes like that only thing that upsets her is that we can't pack up and leave today. Many times she's asked me, "Can we go to England this evening?" And when I reply no, she usually responds with "What about tomorrow/ next weekend?" She's always so heart-broken when I say no, that we're going to have to wait until Christmas for our next visit. So she clings to each of Ben's visits in the meantime, living off of phone and Skype calls as I do. Yesterday afternoon, we were walking back to our house from her Grandma's house and she asked me, "Mama, who's my family?" I smiled at the innocence and simply responded, "Who do you think are your family?" After her Granana and GG, the first two names out of her mouth were of her godfather and Ben. The rest were Aunt CC, Ed, Aunt Spazz, and the kitties. Oh, and you! (she pointed at me last, lol) This is really our entire network of family. So, I guess I said all that to say, yes, we have been talking (my daughter and I), and we will continue talking. If it were a more difficult process, I might consider the family therapy, but honestly, I really don't feel it's needed here. And I am one of those "blissfully happy" people that is planning on getting premarital counseling. :) Thanks for your post, and for the well-wishes. Manda
  • This really has not impact on the legal part of name changing but is just something I thought I would share. My parents got divorced when I was very young and when my mother remarried the minister did a whole section after the vowels where my step-dad said vowels to me (take care of me, treat me like his own, ect) and my mother did the same thing for his kids. This was very special to us kids as it really took the phrase "you don't just marry a woman, but her entire family" onto a whole new level. You might want to consider something like this, especially since your FI will be adopting her, it just really makes it the wedding of a family, not just two people. Of course your minister (or whom ever is officiating the ceremony) will have to approve this, but I cannot imagine one who would not. As to the actual name changing, I would defiantly say talk to her about it, but from a person who was in a similar situation as a child, I cannot wait to change my name at my own marriage, because I have very little relationship with my biological father and I have his last name, and on a more practical level it is the biggest pain when a parent and child have different last names, as the relationship must be explained over and over again and I have on numerous occasions had to have someone call my mother and have her confirm that she was actually my mother because people would not trust that a girl with the last name Thigpen could be the daughter of a woman named Jones. Anyway that's my long winded way of saying, if I had been given the option of taking the name my mother was taking, I would have, so you should ask her.
  • Awwwwww, reciting vows to the children is SO SWEET. That is definitely a possibility that I will have to talk to the FI about. Since we are having 2 ceremonies, I was planning on having my daughter "give me away" at the second one... but this just takes the cake. Thank you so much for sharing your story and the idea! :-) Yes, the explanations part of having different names was one thing that concerned me. I had a bunch of friends with names different from their parents and it always confused them so much. It was especially confusing when there were siblings, half siblings, and step siblings all with different names.
  • because the child's biological father is not in the picture and she is so young, i would go ahead and change your daughters name. i think it would help her to feel more of a part of the family and can actually be used to ease the transition.i had twin daughters who were adopted by another family, and as much as it pained me, changing their last name helped them to make that transition to their new family.make it a happy thing. like, you have a new daddy now and he loves you very much. so for our new family we get to have a new name. that kind of thing.i don't think it will be too difficult teaching your daughter a new name. especially at her age, she is so young that there will be a time she won't remember having a different name.
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  • Turl...I am a clinical therapist as well. Guess that showed through with my advice I gave. :)

    Good luck again!
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