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He's Not The Dad. Can I Give the Baby His Name?

I'm due the end of next month with what techs lead me to believe will be a girl. When I was with her biological dad, who I lovingly refer to as "sperm donor," we had decided on Mia Sage with his last name but since he no longer talks to me and has no plans on being there in any sense, do you think it okay to give her the last name of my current boyfriend, who promised he'd be daddy to her no matter what, even if we break up? - Stuck on Surnames

Pregnancy can be an emotional time for any mom, and so much more so for the mom who's been left by her partner at such a vulnerable life juncture.  Despite your best efforts to show your strength and sense of humor, it's obvious -- and natural -- that you feel hurt and angry.

Dropping the biological father's surname and replacing it with the name of a new boyfriend who promises to be there for you feels right to you at this moment. And why not? Names are powerful signifiers. This simple gesture would allow you to stick it to your ex and honor the new man in your life all at once.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. Erasing the biological father's surname from your life will not erase the painful memories, or the reality of his paternity. And in the end, it could even wind up causing you more pain.

I have said it in the past, and I'll say it again: I am a Name Lady, not a Law Lady. But many localities have laws dictating what a baby's last name can be. You may not be allowed to choose a surname that neither parent bears. You need to talk to your local authorities or find an expert on family law in your area to help you understand your options.

One possible temptation I'd advise strongly against: listing the wrong bio dad to get the right name. This is legal paperwork we're talking about. If you knowingly report the "wrong" daddy, the one you wish had been the sperm donor versus the one who actually was, you could be committing fraud, and that could create serious repercussions for you down the road.

While your baby's biological father is out of the picture today, at any point he may reappear and assert his paternity. Unless he has formally relinquished legal paternity he has certain rights and obligations as a parent; rights you will be required to respect and obligations that you may find yourself calling upon in the future.

As for your current boyfriend, he has clearly stepped up to the plate during this challenging time in your life. He sounds like a stand-up guy. Perhaps you can honor his dedication and support during your pregnancy by using a different first or middle name for your daughter. Talk with him to find a name that means something to him, or to both of you together as a couple. Then pair that with your surname.

Today's families come in all shapes and sizes and configurations. In most places it's now common and accepted for a child to carry her mother's surname. And if, sometime down the line, it becomes clear that your boyfriend really is your daughter's daddy in the true, loving sense, you can pursue making that legal -- complete with his surname -- via adoption.


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July 25, 2011 8:54 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'd give her your last name (never saw why it had to be the man's last name, the mother is just as important), and tell your current bf that you will consider changing her last name if you guys marry and he adopts her.

July 25, 2011 9:00 AM
By Allison (not verified)

I'm going to agree completely with The Name Lady and the commenter above - use YOUR last name and if current boyfriend wants to make it official down the road, he can legally adopt her once biodad's parental rights are terminated.

July 25, 2011 9:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the comment above. BFs and even husbands may come and go but she'll be with you forever give her your last name.

July 25, 2011 9:17 AM
By ClaireP (not verified)

I gave my daughters my last name, and I've been married to the same guy for 29 years (and lived with him for three years before that). Giving your daughter your last name is A-OK in my book, whether your new guy promises to stick with you forever or not.

July 25, 2011 9:22 AM
By Manda (not verified)

Give her your last name, and don't rethink it. I wouldn't even consider giving her the name of your current boyfriend. I'm also not a big fan of giving the baby the name an absent birth father. I have four children, all of which who have my last name. When my husband and I got married, I didn't change my name. When it came time to having children, we preferred my last name to his, so they have mine. And, my husband did change his name also so that we all have the same last name. My point is, you don't have to defer to a man for the baby's name. I'm curious as to if you've just considered giving her your name.

July 25, 2011 10:11 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

As a lawyer, I can tell you (whoever it was who sent in the question) that you do not want to give any man who is not the biological father any rights to your child unless he has married you and adopted the child. I practice in Colorado, so this may not apply in anyone else's state, but if the non-biological father holds the child out as his own the can still end up claiming paternity, even if he's not bio dad. You also may not have to list a father on the birth certificate, depending on the state. So just leave it blank. You don't need a man to raise a child, and you certainly don't need to give your child the name of a totally unrelated person. I agree with the comment that says that if you and he get married and he adopts her you can change her name then (it's a very easy process).

July 25, 2011 12:05 PM
By mk (not verified)

I agree with everyone else. Give the baby your last name. Many children have their mother's last name for whatever reason. Makes more sense for a child to have the last name the biological parent still in her life.

If and when your current boyfriend decides to legally adopt the child as his own, then consider giving her his surname.

July 25, 2011 3:17 PM
By JRE (not verified)

Woah, I can understand your anger, but don't let your emotions get the best of you. Right now, you are the only parent in your daughter's life, give her your last name. If in the future things change, you can legally change her name.

Do not give your boyfriend of a few months, no matter how wonderful he is, name billing yet. Several months ago you were with another man, conceived a child, and had enough of a relationship to talk names. Don't put the cart before the horse. Every man from here on not only has to prove himself to be a good match for you, but prove himself as a daddy.

July 25, 2011 6:41 PM
By Lysis (not verified)

Give the baby your last name!

You have only been with this man for a few months and he has no biological nor legal tie to the child. It makes no sense to give the child his last name.

July 25, 2011 11:10 PM
By PeachyKeen (not verified)

I agree with everyone else: give her your name. My last name is a combination of my mother's maiden name and my father's name (White-Berry), which is another option if you still want to include her bio dad. My name was always strange and confusing for other people, but I'm proud to represent both my parents (who are no longer together, although my dad has always been in my life.) I highly disagree with giving her your new boyfriend's name. My boyfriend has his mother's old flame's last name. He's not his father and he's never met this man, but he carries his name. He hates it and never uses it outside of legal paperwork. He instead uses his maternal grandfather's name which will be the name I take when we are married. It's just not fair to your daughter should you break up with this guy sometime down the line.

July 26, 2011 11:57 AM
By Heather (not verified)

I think it's poor taste to give the baby the name of any man you're not married to, biological or not. Where I'm from unmarried moms give the baby her last name. If it were me, I might give her the bio-dad's mom's first or middle name as her middle name so that she still feels some connection to that side of her bloodline. Even when the guy is a jerk, he's still her dad, and she'll always feel that gap in her heart where her biological dad is supposed to be. Connecting her in some way with a family name might help that.

July 26, 2011 11:59 AM
By Heather again (not verified)

Or you could give the child your ex-boyfriend's last name or your current boyfriend's last name as a middle name... but I'd probably still stick to the biological connection.

July 26, 2011 12:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I did that and regret it. Give her your last name.

July 26, 2011 12:14 PM
By Jo (not verified)

Just echoing everyone else to say give her your last name. My husband and I were both attached to our own last names and each wanted to use ours.

We settled the issue by letting the child's gender choose the surname, if we had had a boy then we would have used my husband's surname. Since we had a girl, she has my name.

As a side note, we also found that (at least in our state), you could give a child whatever surname you wanted and neither parent needed that name. And we toyed with using a family name that had died out. However, in dealing with various government bureaucracy, you will find it easiest if the child has the same last name as at least one parent.

July 26, 2011 12:15 PM
By Leila (not verified)

Do yourself a favor and give your baby your last name, after all, she is YOUR baby. If you marry your current boyfriend and IF he adopts your baby--then and only then consider giving her his name.

July 26, 2011 12:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My parents were not married when I was born, and I was given my mother's maiden name. Looking back, I appreciate it because my dad was out of the picture for a long while, my mom got remarried, then it was nice having the consistency of my last name, despite my inconsistent life! May I suggest giving your daughter YOUR last name - it might make her life growing up a little less confusing. All the best!

July 26, 2011 12:25 PM
By hlaredzz (not verified)

Since you don't have a magic ball and therefore, can't see into the future, give her your last name.

I had two children out of wedlock before I got married. I gave my daughter MY last name, because her father & I had broken up and he didn't appear to be interested in being a father. Well, here we are 19 years later and he has been super involved with her. When my son was born, I gave him his bio dad's last name, because we were in a relationship and had been for 5 years. I assumed we'd eventually be married. Well, 6 years later I ended up leaving him because he wouldn't marry me and he abandoned our son after that, who still has to carry around his last name. I eventually married someone else, who loves my children and would like to adopt my son, but my son is torn because he feels guilt about giving up his bio dad's name, even though he doesn't have a relationship with him. Not only that, but to this day, his teachers refer to me by my son (and ex's)last name, which I just love *sarcasm*.

My daughter doesn't seem to have any conflicting feelings about her last name, because no matter what, it is the name of my family, who loves her and has always been there for her.

It may sound unromantic, but you'll be saving yourself a lot of potential trouble if you just use your own last name.

July 26, 2011 12:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I just wanted to echo the other suggestions of using your last name. My husband has 2 cousins (not related to each other - one from mom's side and one from dad's) who both have their moms' last names because their biological fathers were not in the picture. Adding a 3rd party to the naming is something that can happen later if things work out with your boyfriend.

July 26, 2011 1:06 PM
By Lady-Carissa (not verified)

I totally agree with many of the commenters here. Give the baby your last name. Don't rush to marry the new bf just to give her his name either. Just a note on a situation I am familiar with. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend had a daughter. Not knowing what to give her for a last name they combined parts of both their last names and gave her a new last name. Later after they got married and they wanted her to have their last name (his) they had to formally adopt her even though they were both listed as the biological parents on the birth certificate. The baby was born in TX, they lived in CO when they had to adopt her.

July 26, 2011 2:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Just another vote for giving the baby your last name. All of my siblings are half-siblings, and we all share my mother's maiden name as our last name. She figured that no matter what happened with our father(s), we'd all still be HER children and wanted to reflect the family connection in our shared last name. We all love this connection. In fact, when our step father wanted to adopt us, we chose to keep our last name as-is and our mother hyphenated her last name.

July 26, 2011 2:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My mom's parents were never married. she was born with her fathers surname, but ended up with another when her mother's new husband and soon ex adopted her. her dad dad after that when she was 7 and never saw anything but child support from adopted dad. she has never forgiven her mom. don't make a similar mistake this early in the game.

July 26, 2011 2:34 PM
By Anya (not verified)

Where I'm from, if the child is born out of wedlock, you can only give her your (mother's) last name, unless the bio father legally establishes paternity. It seems natural to me. So I agree with the Name Lady, give the baby your last name and a first or middle name significant to your boyfriend. Maybe his last name as her middle name, if it sounds good.

July 26, 2011 2:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)


You are the one who will be taking her to doctors appointments, you are the parent who will be taking her to school, you are the person who will be legally responsible in any way shape or form for this child. The fact of the matter is this: You have been dating this guy for less than the length of your pregnancy, why would you give your child his last name? He is not biologically or legally the parent of your daughter, Like has been stated above, you can change her name later should you marry this guy and he adopts her.

July 26, 2011 3:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

As the wife of a man who has questioned who is own father is... Give her YOUR last name and put the Biological Fathers name on the Birth Cert.

Anyone can be a father - Only a real man can be a dad.

July 26, 2011 3:45 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

No offense, but this new guy can't have been in the picture for all that long -- less than nine months, I'm assuming. It seems a little premature to be giving your child his surname. Legal rights aside, I think it makes more sense to use yours. Now, if the new guy were actually your husband, and you shared his surname, that might change things (from a common-sense standpoint at least; I'm not sure what the deal is legally). As others have pointed out, you will always be the child's mother, and will bear the brunt of the responsibility for her.

This brings up an interesting point. Wouldn't life be easier if names were passed from MOTHER to child instead of father to child? It's always clear who a baby's mother is, but without paternity testing, no one but the mother really knows who the father is. And sometimes even she isn't sure!

July 26, 2011 4:53 PM
By Tiana (not verified)

As someone who has her unwed mother's maiden name, I strongly urge you to give your child YOUR last name. You'll be so happy you do.

If you & your current boyfriend end up married & he legally adopts your daughter, then you can change her name at that point, if you wish.

July 26, 2011 6:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If you have 2 men already in the running as daddy in less than 9 months choosing the baby's last name is the least of your problems. I am not being mean, it's just a fact and as many have said that child will be yours for as long as she lives. The "sperm donor" as you call him was picked by you to be her father, he is the legal father until he relinquishes paternity.

Statistics show that you will probably not end up with either guy, give her your name until something changes in a legal way.

July 26, 2011 7:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the pp that it would be better to use your own name.

Also like one other person says depending on your location (I live in Sk, Canada) and legally you do not have to list any father so you can leave that blank. So check with your local laws and see what they say about not listing a father.

Good luck!!

July 26, 2011 10:35 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I grew up believing my 'dad' was my biological father, and I have his lastname. Only recently I discovered the truth and I feel cheated that I was not given my real fathers lastname and I feel that the lastname I have lived with for 29yrs is a lie.

Also, if you give the child the new mans name, you guys do stay together maybe marry, she calls him daddy and the 'sperm donor' never reappears in your lives it would be very easy to just not end up telling your daughter the truth.... Please do not do this to your daughter, she deserves the truth!

I think it is definitely a bad idea to give her the new boyfriends name. I'd give her either your own last name, or her biological fathers.

July 27, 2011 10:14 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with most above - use your last name and let the current bf adopt her later. My best friend was the child in a similar situation, always hated having her sperm donor's last name and wished her "honorary" dad had adopted her or she at least had the same name as her mama.

July 28, 2011 10:08 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

To Anon who grew up with her non-biological father's name above: which is a "real" father, a man who impregnated a woman and disappeared, or the man who raised you? I agree that a child should know her biological heritage, if only for medical reasons. I'm sure it was a huge shock, but try to forgive your parents for not telling you - I'm sure in their hearts and minds, your dad was your "real" father. A conception 30 years ago doesn't change the last 29 years of real, actual life, or make them a lie.

July 29, 2011 3:46 PM
By eliza (not verified)

Especially if you are having a girl, choosing to give her your surname is an important show in your belief of your own worth, as a woman. To be so Hung up on naming her after a man seems to symbolize a belief that the man is more important than you are, even if he leaves you, even if you've only been together a few months. Value yourself. You are important. Your surname is important. Show your daughter, through her surname, that she comes from a line of strong, independent women, who don't need a man for a last name.

July 29, 2011 4:42 PM
By Faith (not verified)

My best friend is dealing with this with her son right now. She broke up with her boyfriend of 7 years and started going out with another guy. After about 2 years, she got pregnant & the guy took off. She ended up back together with the ex-boyfriend & when the baby was born, they gave the baby his name & put his name on the birth certificate.

Then he reverted to form & she remembered why she'd broken up with him in the first place. Now bio-dad & dad-of-record are *both* fighting mom for custody & both have legal rights to her because of the choices she made. It's a real mess.

Give her your last name. If the new boyfriend proves to be worthy, let him adopt her & give her his last name down the road. Don't do it now when the hormones & emotions are running so high, both from pregnancy & from new love.

July 31, 2011 8:04 AM
By Amanda C. (not verified)

I agree with everyone else (big surprise) :) give the baby YOUR last name. My sister-in-law and my Aunt did just that, and I think it has worked out wonderfully for both of them. You will never leave your child, and the two of you will form a FAMILY. It's only fitting that she receive your last name. In the end if your boyfriend truly shows he is her 'dad' perhaps both of you can take his last name or (even better) hyphenate, when the time comes. Until that time, give her the name that will cause the least confusion and heartache, and will honor YOU, her mother! Best of luck!

August 1, 2011 2:27 PM
By Laura


August 6, 2011 8:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Like everyone else, I agree- give that baby your own last name, and leave the new boyfriend out of it! You've only been with him a few months. He's promising a lot, but you've yet to see the follow-through. Let him marry you and adopt her before she takes his last name.

September 7, 2011 9:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My sister was in this situation, and gave her daughter the boyfriend's last name. Big mistake. The boyfriend ended up leaving her too. Now my neice is grown, has a last name of a man that is no relation to her, and has nothing to do with her. She has met her biological father and has a great relationship with him now. But she doesn't share his name. I suggest you give the baby YOUR last name. It's the right thing to do by the child.

September 14, 2011 10:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

OMG NO!! Why would you even think that? You obviously haven't even been together a year since your having a different mans baby, so why would you trust "i promise to be there" that's not guaranteed and i wouldn't trust his word. Give the baby YOUR last name. i have 2 kids, 2 different dads and they both have MY last name because I'm not married and it's legally my right as a single (unwed) mother to pick the last name so it's mine. Do what's best for your child, YOU, not some guy who says he's gonna stick around cause what if he doesn't and she's stuck with his last name and questions it when she's older?

May 16, 2012 12:40 PM
By james.clork (not verified)

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June 27, 2012 8:21 AM
By centrum pediatrii (not verified)

I agree with the comment above. BFs and even husbands may come and go but she'll be with you forever give her your last name.

November 3, 2012 12:48 PM
By Johnathan Matthee (not verified)

I met a girl who was 3 months pregnant, and was smoking meth "crank speed" every day from day 1. her mom threw her out, and the boilogical father offerd her money to have the baby "TAKEN CARE" of. When her mom heard the nes, she threw her out of the house... I then took her in, and made sure she understood how the drugs was gonna affect her baby in a negative way. I assured her that I wanted the baby as my own, and did the right thing according to my beliefs.I asked her mother if I could marry her, and told the "sperm doner" that if he did not want the child, I would rase it as my own. (To witch he aggreed.) I made sure she had everything she needed, and went to every doctors appointmant she had. I kept her drug free for the duration of the pregnancy, and after Max was bore, I made sure he was in perfect health till he turned about 15 months of age. She told the people that I was the biological father, and I agreed. We then desided on a hiphonated sirname. (Maxwell hersurname-mysurname) And that would then later become our surname when we got married. After 15 months, she got the fist child seport payment, and she desided that she wanted to move back to her mother. She then gave my ring back, and left with the child I considerd to be my own. Now I dont even get to visit there anything I can do to legaly to get visitation rights?

December 17, 2012 11:19 PM
By Jen (not verified)

She needs to have your last name. I did this with my oldest. I let my ex husband adopt her at age 3.. big mistake. I would hesitate on letting someone adopt my child. That can be another nightmare down the road. Just let her have your name and be honest with her about her biological father and anyone around helping to raise her.

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March 31, 2013 3:07 AM
By Easter Lueras (not verified)

I do that you will be elaborating further on this issue. I was hoping for a tad more information.

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