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The Surname Situation

By Nottage and Ward on November 30, 2018

The following fictional story illustrates a common situation after a divorce in Chicago. If you need help filing a name change, please don’t hesitate to contact Nottage and Ward, LLP.

Sarah and Tom Mickelson had one daughter, 2-year-old Amy, when they both decided it was in everyone’s best interest that they no longer live together.

After a brief separation and a long, emotional process, Sarah made the decision to divorce Tom. They both agreed that Amy should live with her mother. The family court’s decision made that legally binding, awarding sole allocation of parental responsibilities to Sarah and allowing Tom two weekends each month for parenting time.

Not long after the divorce, Sarah went back to her maiden name, Wheeler, but Amy retained Tom’s last name of Mickelson.

In a couple of years, Sarah became Sarah Campbell after she married a wonderful man, Greg Campbell. Greg was smitten with little Amy and evolved into more of a father figure in her life than Tom, whose involvement in his daughter’s life lessened once Greg stepped into the picture. They were now Sarah and Greg Campbell and Amy Mickelson.

To Sarah, it didn’t seem right that Amy would retain the surname of her biological father, a man who was less of a father to Amy than Greg. Sarah knew that one day her inquisitive daughter would want to know why she was still Amy Mickelson, and Sarah was uncertain what she would say.

Should Amy become Amy Mickelson-Wheeler? That would be a mouthful. What about Amy Wheeler-Campbell? Even worse. And what if Greg and Sarah split up in the future? Then the surname situation would be even more complicated. So, while Amy was still young, Sarah and Greg thought it best to legally change Amy’s last name to Wheeler. But how to go about making that change?

The first thing to do was to speak with Tom. Out of respect to Tom and his relationship with Amy, Sarah wanted to get his feelings about the name change. If he felt it was the right thing to do, then the legal process would go smoothly. Sarah was relieved to find that Tom was agreeable, but there were still some legal hoops to jump through.

Sarah went to the courthouse where the divorce decree was issued, and filed a petition for a name change for Amy. The clerk was very helpful and gave Sarah the correct forms that pertained specifically to her situation. The clerk also advised Sarah that there would be no need to serve Tom with a copy of the legal papers if he was in compliance with Amy’s name change. Once she completed the paperwork, Sarah contacted Tom once again for his official signature.

But Tom had a change of heart.

People are subject to changing their minds, particularly when it involves their children. Sarah didn’t foresee this, and the name change became a thorny issue for several years. The one thing that could’ve eased this process from the onset was for Sarah and Greg to contact an experienced Chicago child allocation lawyer.

If you are considering a name change for your child, please call Nottage and Ward, LLP, at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation with a compassionate team of family law attorneys. We will guide you in the legal process and support you and your child every step of the way.

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