Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I have been divorced from my children's father for seven years now. I remarried five years ago. My children's father is incarcerated and we are not sure when he will be getting out. My daughter is 10 and my son is seven. They both have asked me if they can add my new married name to theirs by means of a hyphen. How would I be able to do this without it costing a lot of money?
One fact as mentioned is rather odd, because your ex-husband's term of imprisonment must have been pronounced at the end of his trial. It must have been for a fixed term of a specific number of years or to life imprisonment, to which may have been added that he is not to be considered for parole until he has served a certain number of years. Or he could be in prison on an order that he be held there at the Governor General's pleasure if he was found unfit to give his plea, or for trial by reason of insanity. This latter one would be the most uncertain. So I am rather surprised that you do not seem to know what his sentence was.
You have also not stated when he commenced serving his sentence. Anyway, be that as it may, you have indicated that as far as you know, the possibility of your children's father attaining his freedom any time soon is not in the cards.
You stated that it was the children who asked you if they could add their stepfather's name to theirs by means of a hyphen. It is clear from their ages that your husband has been their stepfather from the time your daughter was five years old and your son was two. Clearly he is the father figure they have been familiar with all these years, and the relationship between them seems to be quite good. In addition, they probably feel somewhat confused and insecure, being known by a name other than yours and their stepfather's.
Well, let me deal with your query, which is how you can accede to your children's request without having to spend a lot of money. The most direct and sensitive way would be to have your ex-husband consent to the act and then proceed to effect the change by way of a deed poll for each of the children. You will have to pay legal costs for an attorney-at-law to draw up the deeds for you, and pay for the stamp duty and for the Registrar General's Department to effect the change and obtain certified copies of their birth certificates with their changed names.
Since I do not know what you mean by “a lot of money”, I cannot say if this would be too much for you. You will have to check the matter out for yourself with the person you select as your lawyer. You can enquire of several if you wish to compare fee levels.
Another way that the children's name could be changed is if your husband were to adopt them. This would give them the right to use his surname, and he could consent to it being hyphenated with theirs. This could be a long process, and the matter has to go to either the Family Court or the Supreme Court to make the order of adoption. With court applications involved this would most likely cost more, and the length of time may make it unattractive.
The deed poll process is very quick and simple. So it would be best to consider this process as the best in the circumstances, as your children would wish to have the process completed as soon as possible. I would suggest that you and your husband consider making your custody and care and control of your children legal by applying for and obtaining legal orders for you both in this regard. I say this because in law, your ex-husband has a right to custody just as much as you do, whereby he can insist that he plays a part in every important decision about the children's development. With a joint custody order granted to you and your present husband, only you two would have that right. So please consider this as a further step after you have granted your children's wish for a name change.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.