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Greg wrote:

Dear AskACatholic.com Team,

A brief background to my question:

My children's mother was the eldest of four girls; i.e., her parents/father had no sons to carry on the family name.

When our children were born, their mother asked if we could use her maiden name as a second middle name. I agreed out of respect for her and her father. It very clearly shows on their birth certificates that her maiden name is a second middle name.

After the birth of our second child, we separated and eventually finalized our divorce while I was across country on active duty with the Navy. She subsequently remarried.

When I returned to the local area, I discovered she was enrolling our children in school, sports, and extracurricular activities with their last name as her maiden name hyphenated with my name.

When I confronted her on this, she told me it was recommended to her by the school, sports, etc. so as to save confusion on our children's last name being different from hers . . . she was back to using her maiden name.

I told her she should have discussed it with me first, as I did not approve, and it is very common for children of divorced parents to have their father's last name which is different from the mother's last name so I found it difficult to believe this would cause so much confusion. I asked her to please refrain from using the hyphenated name. I also took copies of their birth certificates to the school and asked them to correct their records; which they did.

Afterwards, I then went out of the local area and overseas on active duty for a few years, including time spent in a combat zone. Upon my return, I discovered she had dropped my name completely from theirs (evidently, schools and sports in this state allow children to go by whatever name they chose, regardless of their legal name) and they were going by her maiden name as their last name.

So now, after being in the military and serving my country honorably, I go to events and hear my children announced with another name and their teammates and coaches calling them by another name. Worse yet (for me), while I was away on active duty, she has somehow manipulated and convinced my children that it is acceptable to reject my last name and go by her maiden instead.

  • What is the Catholic Church's position on children having their father's last name if born in wedlock?
I look forward to your response.

Yours in Christ,

Greg

  { What's the Church's view on my ex— dropping my last name from an unwanted hyphenated name? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Greg,

I could answer similar questions about recording Baptisms but to my knowledge, there is no Catholic legislation on this question.

You do what is best for the children starting now. In other words, this doesn't start from scratch.

What has happened has happened.

Fr. Jonathan

Bob replied:

Greg,

I suspect you are going to need an attorney on this one. I hear an undertone in your story — you feel as though if you were able to be closer in proximity to your children you may have been able to stop this, but the career you have in the military hasn't made this possible.

Ultimately, this is not so much a consequence of being removed from your children's life but of divorce itself. Divorce is an ugly business and that is why God is not for it. Since you can't go back and rewrite history, you must deal with the matter at hand and consider what is really best for the children.

Since the name is emblematic of their ties to you, I do consider it worth fighting for, because you want to have a greater stake in their lives. Relinquishing this, in some way, is relinquishing your place as their father. If there needs to be a compromise, the hyphenated name is as far as I would go.

Your job is to be their Dad; you have fought enemies overseas for your country, now fight for your place in the lives of your children.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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