We’ve seen in the news a dust-up about a TN Judge that refused to allow parents to name their child “Messiah,” in fact changing the child’s name.
Mom and dad were in a disagreement over what to name the child, but ultimately agreed on the first name of Messiah and disagreed over the child’s surname (last name). The Judge crossed the line, however, when she changed the child’s first name over the parent’s agreement to Messiah and objection to any change of the first name. The Judge cited that the name was not in the child’s best interest and stated there is only one Messiah. The Judge also noted the name could be offensive to the religious community.
However, parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit, a constitutional right to privacy and a presumption that they are acting in the child’s best interests. That is not to say all parents do, but the State’s interest is primarily limited to the child’s last name. TN could determine the last name, which could either be the same as the mother’s or the father’s, but crossed the line when changing the first name.
The parents appealed the ruling and the matter was quickly reversed. Messiah, changed to Martin, is Messiah again. A correct legal outcome, regardless of how you feel about the name. In Mississippi, a child shall have the surname of the father, if known, regardless of the marital status of the parents. There is a provision, in the judge’s discretion, to deviate from the the surname of the father requirement, however there must be a compelling reason.
Matthew Thompson is a domestic relations counselor in the Magnolia State and encourages you to know your rights as a parent.