NEW JERSEY MINOR NAME CHANGE: BEST INTERESTS STANDARD
In New Jersey (as in many other states) the courts will generally grant, as a matter of course, an application to change a child's surname if that application is not opposed by one of the parents. If there is opposition to the name change by one of the child's natural parents, the courts will resolve the dispute by considering whether the proposed minor name change promotes the "best interests" of the minor child.
The factors that the New Jersey courts consider, as part of the "best interest" test for minor name changes, including, among others: the length of time that the child has used one surname, the identification of the child as a member or part of a family unit, the potential anxiety, embarrassment, or discomfort the child might experience if the child bears a surname different from the custodial parent, and any preferences the child might express, assuming the child possesses sufficient maturity to express a relevant preference.
However, there is a general presumption in favor of the surname chosen by the child's primary caretaker (i.e., parent with primary custody). A secondary caretaker (non-custodial parent) must demonstrate that the primary caretaker's choice of name is not in the child's best interest. Accordingly, if you are a custodial parent who wishes to change your child's surname, the legal standard applicable in New Jersey is extremely favorable to you, even if the other parent objects. Ronan v. Adely, 861 A.2d 822 (Supreme Court of New Jersey).