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Long Island Divorce Lawyer Advises if You Can Change Your Child’s Last Name after Divorce

Divorce Lawyer Long Island Name Change TipsAs a Long Island divorce lawyer, my assistance is often sought to submit to the court a name change request on behalf of their minor children Nassau County or Suffolk County court. I have found that the general consensus regarding name changes in New York is that the process is quite easy. However, the reality of the situation is quite opposite.

Procedural Requirements for a Name Change in Suffolk County or Nassau County Court

In order to file a name change request, you must first download and fill out the appropriate forms from the New York State Unified Court System website. If you wish to do this on your own you must be careful, as there are different forms for “state” residents as opposed to “city” residents. Because my divorce attorney firm practices mainly in Nassau County and Suffolk County, this blog will discuss only how to file for a name change in those counties. After completing the requisite forms, you will need to file them with the court. There is a $210 filing fee in Supreme Court, as well as any additional fee associated with filing a Request for Judicial Intervention. A Request for Judicial Intervention is a necessary form that alerts the court to your request in order to have a judge assigned to the matter.
The Petition for an Individual’s Name Change requests information such as whether the minor (or individual seeking a name change) has ever been convicted of a crime, has ever filed for bankruptcy, or if there are any judgments or liens against the child or any property titled to the child. This information is requested because if the judge believes you are seeking to change your child’s name to commit fraud or otherwise avoid debts, liabilities and/or other responsibilities, it is likely your request will be denied.

What Do I Have to Show in Suffolk County or Nassau County Court for My Petition to Be Granted?
The recent Suffolk County case Matter of Dennington (Schaeffer), 2014 NY Slip Op 51735 (U)(2014), analyzed what may and may not be a valid reason to grant a name change petition.

The Petitioner, who alleged the child’s father was absent from the child’s life, sought to change the child’s last name to her own maiden name. After hearing conflicting testimony about the father’s role in the child’s life, the Court noted that deciding a name change petition must be done after an examination of the totality of the circumstances, and whether based upon those circumstances, granting the petition would be in the best interests of the child involved. Therefore, such a decision is not based solely upon the word of the moving party. Rather, the court will consider, among other things, whether changing the child’s surname would affect his or her relationship with either parent, how the child is known throughout the community, the extent to which the child identifies with his or her last name, and, if old enough, the child’s preference to have his or her named changed. Matter of Eberhardt, 83 A.D.3d 116, 123-24 (2d Dep’t 2011).

Additionally, even if a court finds a name change to be in the best interests of the child, there must still be a “compelling” reason to grant the name change, such as “where the natural father is guilty of misconduct, abandonment, or lack of support.” Matter of Dennington (Schaeffer), 2014 NY Slip Op 51735 (U)(2014). It is believed that unless one of the above is shown, such a decision is better left to the child when he or she reaches maturity. Id.

What if the Non-Custodial Parent is Delinquent in Child Support Payments?
What most likely caught your eye from the above decision is the statement that the lack of support may be a compelling reason to grant a name change application. However, it also must be known that while the Court in Dennington did note that the lack of support was a compelling reason, it also denied the Petitioner’s motion even though she alleged that the Respondent-Father was in arrears on child support and his wages were now being garnished. Therefore, it seems that there must be a gross lack of support for this to be sufficient grounds on which to base a name change application.

Your Long Island Divorce Lawyer Can Advise You Regarding Name Change Petitions in Suffolk County or Nassau County Court

Whether or not to file a name change petition on behalf of your minor child is a purely personal decision. As a Long Island divorce lawyer, I can only guide you as to the laws involved and the likely outcomes. If you have doubts as to whether your petition would be granted, you may take either the “wait and see” approach, and allow the child to make his or her own decision upon reaching the age of 18, or the “I’ll never know unless I try” approach and file now. As always, it is important to remember that the child will be affected by any name change, and you must be sure you are seeking this for the right reasons.

When you’re ready to move forward, give the experienced and compassionate Long Island divorce lawyers at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC a call at 631-923-1910. We’ll help walk you through the process so you can decide for yourself which route is in your, and your child’s, best interests.

Long Island Divorce Lawyer Tells You What You Need to Know in Free Divorce Guide eBook

Divorce Lawyer Long Island Free Guide eBookLong Island, NY divorce lawyer Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. is pleased to offer you a free copy of his brand new eBook written to help you navigate the often murky waters of divorce in New York State.

The eBook, “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” takes the mystery and fear out of the often the difficult process of divorce so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

Rather than charge for what is truly a valuable resource for couples considering divorce, we’re making the guide available as a free download from this website. Just click this link, Free Guide to New York Divorce by Long Island Divorce Lawyer Robert E. Hornberger, Esq.

Why the ‘Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York’?

Speaking to your spouse about a divorce is not likely a conversation you imagined yourself having when you got married. But as we all find out sooner or later, we never know what life has in store for us. As a Long Island divorce attorney with 15 years of experience, I have seen husbands and wives enter my office with numerous emotions; complete disbelief, extreme anger, and at times, even joy.

However one thing that stays the same with the majority of the clients we encounter is that each one is anxious. Most people will go their entire lives without dealing with the court system, but a divorce puts you in the position to stand in front of the judge and discuss personal matters.

eBook Pull QuoteWe know how complicated and scary this unknown process of divorce can be. Therefore, my job as a Long Island divorce attorney is not only to fight for the rights of my clients in court, but to also fight for them outside of court, and attempt to make a stressful process just a little less stressful.

Our intent behind publishing this book is exactly that. We hope to provide you with some general information on the divorce process and the laws it rests upon in the State of New York, so you are better able to meet with divorce attorneys confidently, and begin your divorce prepared for the road that lies ahead.

We understand that if you’re considering a divorce on Long Island, you are likely distraught at the prospect of going through a divorce. Even if you are initiating the divorce, it’s still an emotional experience and there’s so much confusion and misinformation out there. We wrote this book to help people who may be considering divorce in New York understand what they’re getting into. We hope that by being able to read this book on your own time from the comfort and convenience of your own home, you’ll be better prepared for what’s to come when you take the step to meet with a Long Island divorce lawyer.

The eBook covers the most important issues anyone on Long Island considering divorce in New York will have to tackle. We’ve provided a glimpse of the Table of Contents of the eBook below to demonstrate the comprehensive nature of this guide. Far from a “sales pitch” for our firm, we want you to consider carefully what you’re getting into and be sure that you’ve tried everything to save your marriage before you initiate divorce proceedings. We also want to be sure that, should you decide to divorce, that you are prepared to move on with your life after your divorce in a healthy and happy way.

We know that it’s difficult for anybody to absorb all the information they need to know sitting in a divorce lawyer’s office, particularly when you’re in emotional turmoil. Our hope is that, after reading the book, when you visit a Long Island divorce lawyer, you’ll know what to expect and be more relaxed and able to make the best decisions for you and your family.

Download Long Island Divorce Lawyer, Robert E. Hornberger, Esq.’s New eBook Now

The new eBook, “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” is available now as a free download from the company’s website,

Divorce Lawyer Long Island Guide Table of Contents


Who is Responsible for the Marital Debt In a Long Island Divorce?

Marital Debt in Long Island DivorceAs a Long Island Divorce Lawyer, I have heard hundreds of scenarios for how a spouse learns their partner wants to end the marriage and get a divorce. Of course, usually it is not a total surprise and both spouses knew the marriage was in trouble, but when it comes right down to it, hearing it in all it’s finality is a blow and starts your mind racing.

Essentially, it boils down to something like you come home from work one day to hear your spouse say the words “I want a divorce.” Naturally, hundreds of thoughts are racing through your mind, what about the kids, the house, and the family pet? Who will the children spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with; can I still take them to my mom’s in Florida? These thoughts are natural and practically immediate upon hearing those words. What is not usually so natural and immediate are the thoughts about what happens to the $27,000 worth of credit card bills your spouse incurred on your joint credit accounts only three weeks earlier.

Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Debt?

Divorce in Nassau County or Suffolk County on Long Island are covered by the laws of New York State. Divorce laws in New York follow what is called Equitable Distribution. This is a system of property division that calls for the “equitable”, or fair, distribution of marital assets. As previous posts on this site have stated, marital assets are those assets which are obtained during the course of the marriage. What is lesser known however, is that marital debts and liabilities (those debts and liabilities which are incurred during the marriage) are also subject to equitable distribution. That means that the $5,000 shopping spree your spouse went on days before he or she filed for divorce may still be your responsibility. Where is the fairness in that you ask? Technically a marriage is a union, and therefore there is joint responsibility for all the benefits and burdens.

How Do I Avoid Paying Debt That is Solely My Spouse’s?

Naturally, no one wants to pay for the debts of another. Even more so, no one wants to pay for the debts of the person who just told them he or she no longer wants to be married to them. The best solution to this type of situation is to enter into a stipulation, or settlement agreement, which your Long Island divorce attorney will draft for you. Most stipulations have an entire article devoted to marital debts. If you and your spouse have no joint debt, a statement representing that fact will be placed into the agreement. However, if you do have joint debt, your divorce lawyer will help you determine who will pay for what and for which debts you will assume joint responsibility. This should all then be laid out in the agreement, including the creditor, the amount owed, when the payments are to be made, and who will be making those payments.

What if We Simply Cannot Afford to Pay the Marital Debt?

Unfortunately, some couples have incurred such a high amount of marital debt, whether the fault of one or both parties, that they simply cannot afford to pay it off. In instances such as this, the sale of the marital residence, if owned, may be the only solution. Couples who find themselves in this situation may opt to make minimum monthly payments on any outstanding debts until the sale of the marital residence. After the sale and the satisfaction of the mortgage and other necessary expenses, the marital debt can be paid off with what proceeds are left from the sale of your home. If you and your spouse decide this is the best option for you, be sure your divorce attorney puts a clause in any agreement you enter stating that any outstanding marital debts will be satisfied in this manner.

What We Do With Our Joint Credit Cards?

The best option for both you and your spouse is to close all joint credit and/or savings accounts and cancel all joint credit cards. This way going forward, you will both have your own individual bank accounts and credit cards and will not have to worry about your spouse incurring debt under your name. If you decide not to do this, keep in mind that the credit card companies do not care that you and your spouse are going through a divorce. If you have a Visa card under both of your names, you both will be responsible for any expenses charged on that card.

Experienced & Compassionate Long Island Divorce Lawyers Can Help You Divide Your Debt

Dividing up the marital debt can be a tricky and time consuming process. If your divorce is amicable, you both may agree to split the debt evenly, or that you each will pay for what you purchased. Unfortunately, not all divorces go that smoothly. If that is the case it is best to discuss with your divorce attorney how a stipulation of settlement can provide a solution to the problem of marital debt. The compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. have years of experience helping couples fairly and appropriately divide up their debt in their stipulation or settlement agreements. If you have questions, give us a call Contact us today at 631-923-1910 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Long Island divorce attorney.

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