General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Do children of unwed mothers take the last name of the mother?

Asked by LostInParadise (18183 points ) May 25th, 2009

It would seem to be the obvious choice.

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30 Answers

essieness's avatar

I would assume so.

Darwin's avatar

Sometimes, but especially if mom either doesn’t know who the father is, simply does not put him on the birth certificate, or has no continuing relationship with the child’s father.

If the parents are friendly and cooperative although not married, the child could bear either last name, or even both in hyphenated form.

There are no formal rules decreeing how a child of unwed parents is to be named.

westy81585's avatar

I think it varies actually. Its probably up to the mother to decide. I’ve heard of cases where the couple just wasn’t married, but were on good terms, so the child took the fathers name.

Supacase's avatar

I’ve seen both. I believe it is a personal preference.

MrItty's avatar

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. My ex-girlfriend’s son has his biological father’s last name, even though he’s never had a relationship with him.

Macaulay's avatar

Depends. Although the parents may not be married before the child is born, they could be planning a wedding/happily together, but unmarried/etc; in this case, the child would probably take the father’s last name. If the father is not willing to support the mother as a family, the child would probably take the mother’s last name; and vice versa. If the father is ready to parent the child and the mother is not, they child could take the father’s last name. I think it boils down to which parent… parents.

Kayak8's avatar

It totally depends on where you live (think country) and the law of the land. In many locales, the laws exist more as a way to help define laws of inheritance but have the unfortunate role of defining the child’s life from early on.

aprilsimnel's avatar

My BM gave me her last name.

Jeruba's avatar

As I understand the law, you can call yourself anything you want as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes. I believe you can also give whatever name you choose to your child.

I know a married couple who have different last names—the wife kept her maiden name. They have two children, and they have given them both full names of their own, with different last names. I forget the last name they gave to the daughter, but the son has the last name “Rain,” which is nothing like either of his parents’ names. Another married couple who each kept their own birth names gave their daughter a last name that is not a hyphenation but a blend of the parents’ two surnames (sort of like this: Smith + Roland = Smithland). Both of these instances are in California.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @westy81585
I gave my first son his father’s last name
I gave my second his father’s last name
I’ll give my third child mine

Darwin's avatar

My daughter’s birth parents put her birth mother’s name as her last name on the original birth certificate. My son’s birth parents put his birth father’s name as his last name on his birth certificate. In both cases both birth parents were on the certificates.

When we adopted the kids, we chose to give them my husband’s last name, in large part because it is easier to spell, but also because it pleased his parents and it didn’t matter either way to my parents.

When a child is born and when a person gets married, at least in Texas, you can put any name that is legally acceptable on the forms (no obscenities allowed). At birth it is because the child has no name and at marriage because one name change (interpreted as one per person) is included with the marriage license process.

Customarily we tend to share our last names because of tradition and because it is easier to know who belongs with who. But there is no law that requires any of it.

charliecompany34's avatar

yes. case in point, my wife who had a son before we were married. i call him my own since the biological father has absolutely nothing to do with him, but he does carry the maiden name of his mother and i have no problem with that. .

vaudevillian's avatar

My parents aren’t married but have been together for well over 30 years and I have my father’s name.

sakura's avatar

We double barrelled our daughters name, my surname first then my husbands (we weren’t married at the time) We are married now and although her birth certificate and official papers all use her double barrelled name she goes just by her dads name!

I had a friend who’s maiden name was Todd when she had her son she named him Todd and gave him his dads surname – the best of both worlds!!

LostInParadise's avatar

I was thinking it would be particularly convenient to use the mother’s last name if the father’s identity was not certain and/or the woman has children by different fathers. Such things are known to happen from time to time.

Jeruba's avatar

@LostInParadise, convenient for whom? Is it necessary for people to know someone’s paternity or mother’s marital status? Do we relate to them in a certain way on account of their known or unknown lineage?

Darwin's avatar

It certainly makes it less complicated if everyone living together as a family has the same last name. People just have to learn one last name, and they can assume that everyone in the house has the same name. Hence, your teacher would safely assume that she could call your mother Mrs. or Ms. Smith, if your last name on her roster is Smith.

However, it is no longer expected or even typical, as evidenced by the question I am asked frequently in regards to my children, that is whether they both have the same last name as I do.

Jack79's avatar

In most countries they do, unless the father recognises the child (usually when the couple are in fact living together but are not technically married). It is also possible for the child to start off with the mother’s name, and then be recognised by the father later, taking his name.

It is also possible for married couples to agree to give children the mother’s name, or a combination of both, though most people simply go with the father’s surname due to tradition and convenience. To the point where most people don’t even realise they have that choice.

bea2345's avatar

A lawyer told me that a child can have any name, as long as it is the same on all his documents.

KatawaGrey's avatar

My mother is unwed. I have no father. My last name is the same as my mother’s.

Apparently, before I was born, people would wonder what my last name would be and some were horrified that I would have my mother’s last name. Sometimes, just to fuck with people, she would tell people my last name would be Johnson. They wouldn’t understand why and my mother would roll her eyes and tell them I would be taking her name.

Darwin's avatar

@KatawaGrey Maybe we are related. My son’s last name used to be Johnson until we adopted him.

ubersiren's avatar

It’s definitely up to the mother.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I was just thinking about this on Friday. I work in a daycare for the children of high school students, and most of the dad’s are completely uninvolved, and yet, every single one of my kids has their dad’s last name. I’m not sure if that’s the most common thing, but it seems to be the trend in our daycare.

casheroo's avatar

This is the mother’s choice, since her being unmarried means she gets to decide.
When I had my son, I was not married yet. At the hospital, they labeled him with my last name. My husband and I filled out the necessary paperwork, where he claimed paternity and I consented to the paternity. We gave our son my now husbands last name, since we had every intention of getting married. I would have done it if we weren’t getting married though.

My SIL gave her daughter her last name, because she was grateful she had a little girl and not a boy, because the guy would have wanted to have more to do with the child. He’s still a crappy dad.

I must say, before I changed my last name to be the same as my son, it was a huge pain in the ass. I had to argue with people in offices that he indeed was my son, which was very frustrating. It made going to the pediatrican annoying, because I was the carrier of the insurance but we didn’t share the same last name so we constantly had issues.
It’s much easier now that we all have the same last name. (I actually have two last names, so I can go by both, which is cool)
Some states have very strict laws about paternity and claiming it at the hospital. It was easy peasy for us, but I’ve heard horror stories elsewhere.
Oh, and since we were unmarried, I had all the parental control of our son, which was frustrating at the hospital because I had just had a hard labor and they refused to get consent for anything from my then fiance. They didn’t need to be so strict.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Jeruba When they get in school it is a real disadvantage to have different names, because there is so much chance of mix up when people call or send home notices. The parent practically has to prove she is their mother when they go on trips, or have to go to the hospital for any reason. This is for the protection of the child. I would hate for anyone who wants to walk in and take my child by saying I’m his mother, but we have different names.

estewart's avatar

i am a single mother of five.
i adopted all of my children and we all share my last name.
i would never ever hyphenate a childs last name, i think thats just cruel, i mean what if ” jesse scott-duncan” married “taylor dodge-macdonald”?...what the heck would there kids be named? jane scott-duncan-dodge-macdonald?
keep it simple.

Darwin's avatar

@estewart – When your children are of an age to marry they are allowed to choose whatever last name they want to use. If ” jesse scott-duncan” married “taylor dodge-macdonald” she (and he, too, actually, at least in Texas) could decide to use the last name of Smith if she wishes. The only restriction in most states is simply that you can’t use blasphemous or vulgar terms.

Many societies, including the one in which my father was raised, routinely hyphenate last names, and no one finds it cruel.

Darwin's avatar

@YARNLADY – Actually, having a different last name than your child is not a problem at school these days. No one is allowed to pick up your child unless they are a) listed on the Emergency Card by you, and b) has a picture id that matches the id number that you put on the card.

That even keeps people with the same last name as your child from picking them up if they shouldn’t, such as an abusive ex-spouse who has been barred from contact with the kids by a judge.

I have a different last name than my kids and have had no problems. However, most teachers call me Mrs. (my kids’ last name) when they talk to me.

sam52ohio's avatar

In the state of ohio who last name do you give a baby if your not married ? can you give both last name to your child if you and the father are getting married later on?

YARNLADY's avatar

@sam52ohio Not all states have the same rules, you need to contact the hospital or registrar.

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