Blended families that unite stepparents and stepchildren are fairly common. In most cases, stepchildren and their stepparents do not share a last name. A biological parent has the right to petition the court to change the child's surname to match that of his parent and stepparent. Illinois law requires parents petitioning for a name change to demonstrate proof that the name change benefits the child rather than just the parents.
The stepparent cannot petition the court to change the child's last name. The child's biological parent must file a formal name change petition on the child's behalf at her county courthouse. Before she can do so, however, she must run a notice in the local newspaper for three consecutive weeks notifying the public of her intention to change the child's name. This serves as sufficient notification in Illinois for anyone – including the child's other biological parent – who may object to the name change. After filing the name change petition, the court sets a hearing date to decide the case.
At the hearing, the judge will consider whether the name change is in the child's best interests. You can present any evidence you have that demonstrates to the judge that the name change will benefit the child. The judge will take both biological parents' and the stepparent's opinions into consideration. If the child is old enough to state his own opinion, the judge will also take the child's opinion into consideration when ruling on whether to approve the name change.
If the stepparent formally adopts the child, the name change procedure differs. In an adoption, the child's biological parent loses all parenting rights to the child while the stepparent gains both the rights and responsibilities that come along with being the child's legal parent. If the stepparent adopts the child, the court will provide him with a Certificate of Adoption. After filing the Certificate of Adoption with the Circuit Clerk, the Office of Vital Records changes the child's surname on her birth certificate to the stepparent's surname.
According to Southern Illinois University School of Law, if the judge denies the name change request, the biological parent cannot simply file another petition. Once an Illinois court makes a ruling, the ruling is final and the court will not address the same issue a second time. Thus, a biological parent and stepparent hoping to change a minor child's name must ensure that they have enough evidence to support the necessity of the name change before filing the petition with the court. In the event the couple's circumstances change and they have enough evidence to support the name change, they may file the name change petition a second time.