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What standard should be applied when unwed parents disagree about whether to change a child’s surname? In a recent ruling, Connor H. v. Blake G., the Nebraska Supreme Court held that a five-year-old boy should keep his original surname, his mother’s name at the time of his birth, rather than assuming the surname she later took upon marrying another man or switching to his biological father’s surname. A surname can be changed, this court held, only if doing so is in the child’s best interests, with no special deference to the wishes of the custodial parent. A child is an individual, and the decision whether he should keep or change his surname must be individualized as well. This case is one of many revealing tensions over naming that are aggravated by unwed parenting, divorce, and remarriage.



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