Question: I am not married to my child’s father, but he says he can make me change my child’s last name so that it is the same as his. Can he do that?

Answer: Legally, only the judge can make anybody do or not do anything.

Before an unmarried, biological father has any rights concerning the child, there must be a paternity proceeding that results in an order finding the named man to be the biological father of the named child. Once the father’s paternity has been established he has the same rights to the child as a mother would have. If he wants the child to have his last name, he has the right to ask the court to make an order to that effect.

The Texas Family Code provides that the court may order the name of a child changed if the change is in the best interest of the child.

Recently, a Dallas Court of Appeals case noted that the custom of carrying a father’s surname within the marital relationship has not always been the situation in Western societies. The right of the mother to have the child bear her surname must be recognized as equal to that of the father. The trial judge must consider the factors that address the best interest of the child, not the needs of a particular parent, or customs or traditions that reflect a constitutionally prohibited inequality.

There are many factors that the court must consider in making that decision including, but not limited to, the name the child has used with doctors and teachers, the age and maturity of the child, the length of time the child had the surname, and the child’s awareness of his identity with the surname.


Jerry Buckner, board certified in family and criminal law, may be contacted at P.O. Box 1268, 206 Houston St., Weatherford, TX 76086, or by calling (817) 594-5428.

“Neither Jerry Buckner nor The Weatherford Democrat intends this column to be used as legal advice and it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with your own personal attorney about specific legal problems. Each case depends upon its own unique facts and circumstances.”

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