Who’s Surname ?

My dad was given his mother’s surname when he was born at an unwed mother’s home run by the Salvation Army in San Diego CA. His father was a married man. It does not appear he even ever knew he had a son. More’s the pity because I believe they would have been great fishing buddies. It was the mid-1930s and so, that is how it was done – if the father was not involved. This would have made it difficult for me to discover who his father was, if I had not found my cousin (we have the same grandmother). Clearly, my grandmother knew who my dad’s father was because of the middle name she gave him and a head shot photo of the man with his name written on the back. Thanks to that photo, I was able to confirm who my dad’s father was. And inexpensive DNA testing also helped !!

Today’s story is a bit different but along similar lines.

I’m an adoptee who is 6 months pregnant. Father and I are no longer in a relationship but on really good terms. I’ll never keep this baby from him. Here is my dilemma. I don’t want this baby to have his last name and he’s insistent on it. He can be listed on the birth certificate and have his paternal rights without having to have his last name. I’m adamant about this. I want her to have my last name as does my 6 year old (with a different father.) Am I wrong? I’m also considering my 6 year old and think it’s best she has the same last name as him.

A few more details – dad is insistent on it because he is much older, in his late 50’s. He has a married daughter who no longer has his last name. His son has 2 daughters and doesn’t plan on having more children. Mom doesn’t want to have a hyphenated last name because she feels it would cause too much aggravation for the child as she grows up.

One adoptee said – As someone whose parents never married, I’m glad I was given my mom’s last name. I gave my son my last name and his dad didn’t stay around. He wouldn’t have had anyone else in his life with that last name. IF I ever marry I won’t change my name because my son has it.

And of course, today the choice of one’s name is so fluid and open to personal interpretation. The social mores regarding names has changed so much and for the better I believe. Someone else notes that – In the United States, they put mom’s last name on the crib card that they have the baby in at the hospital. You fill out the birth certificate while at the hospital also. You don’t have to say anything out loud if you don’t want to. Just put what YOU decide and leave it at that.

Which reminds me – when I had my daughter (in those days one didn’t know the sex of their baby until it was born), the father and I had not agreed on a name. Later, he announced to me what he told the hospital staff her name was to be without ever consulting me. I hasten to add, I really love her name but the origin of it ?, let us just say I refused to tell her and told her, “ask your dad.”

Another person shares her experience of having her mother’s last name – The only time it was ever annoying was, as a kid, whenever a grown adult would ask me, still a child, why I didn’t have my Dad’s last name. Even then, the name didn’t bother me. People being both nosy and close-minded about it bothered me. And I find nowadays, most people either don’t care, or don’t see a reason to question why a child has whatever last name they have.

I really LOVE this response – The notion that children should be named after the men in the first place is based on the sexist notion that women and children are chattel. Think of all the things named after men in the world and then, tell me a single thing that deserves to be named after a woman more than a child. We’re independent women, and keeping the patriarchal name chain going isn’t necessary anymore.

And then there is this real life example – my daughter, age 13, has her biological dad’s last name…he only sees her a couple times a year, (his choice, he lives 5 min away). My husband of 11 years has raised her and been her “daddy” as long as she can remember…she hates that she has her biological dad’s last name! She is the only one in our home with that last name and she hates it. She has even said she wished, at the least, she had my family’s last name. She has no close people with the same last name. Also, the other thing she is dealing with right now in middle school…she has several older cousins with the same last name, including one girl that is only 1 year older…they both have red hair. So everyone is always assuming they are sisters…which wouldn’t be a big deal, except the other girl doesn’t even acknowledge her, she turns her nose up at her. So my daughter hates it when people assume they are sisters. It makes her uncomfortable. She has been asking for several years if she could change it to match the rest of us, I tell her that she can when she is older.

Someone else notes – You both have strong feelings on the matter, and reasonable points. Even if I think there’s some patriarchy mixed in his feelings. I’m saying, if possible, find a way to compromise or bend in another area so he feels heard and included.

And I smile when I see her next suggestion – Why doesn’t he take your name?

I found this to be the best argument – The baby should have the name of the person who will have more custody, because a lot of times I ran in to issues because my sons have their father’s last name and not mine. Many times I had to bring extra paperwork. So if you will be doing all the paper work ie – doctors, schooling, sports/arts/camp stuff – it should be yours.

Finally, it was also pointed out by someone who handled name changes as one of their tasks at a courthouse – the mother should give the baby her last name. The mass majority of minor child name changes she did over a four year period were because the child was given the father’s last name and then stopped being present in the child’s life, stopped paying child support, etc.

In order to do a name change on a minor (probably in most states), a signed and notarized consent is required from both parents. And if one of the parents is deceased, then signed and notarized consent was required from both of that person’s parents. If consent couldn’t be obtained, then proof of service had to be presented to the Court and then, the Court would have a deputy attempt to serve the parent with notice of a court hearing. Most of the time, the father would show up for the hearing or would send a letter denying consent to the name change. When that happened, the case would be dismissed. It is in you and your child’s best interests for the child to have your last name. If circumstances change between you and the father later on, it will be a lot easier to do a name change because it’s a guarantee all parties will be in favor of it.