I am not an attorney. I did a lot of counseling of divorced fathers,
and also a few non-custodial mothers, which involved a lot of legal
reading. If you want a 100% certain answer, you are going to need to
obtain an attorney.
However, as a general rule, rather than applying a recommendation to
your specific case, in the circumstances you have described, if you
simply use your preferred surname, the father will need to go to court
and will be fighting an uphill battle. First, he would have to
establish paternity if it has not been done, then he would have to
show a valid and important reason to change the child's name from what
you have called it. Unless he has a close relationship with the
child, he would probably lose anyway. Especially if you are able to
express a solid reason for the name you have chosen.
He can't simply walk up to you and tell you to change the name.
Contrary to what certain extremists may have led you to believe, men,
especially unwed fathers, simply are not granted many rights by most
judges. It is even worse if he is not paying child support. As I said,
it is an uphill battle, more so if he is not closely involved with the
In any case, I think you should just do what you want, and don't worry about this.
I do think you have the right as you state, subject to an uphill
battle to force you to change it.
The reason one should always see an attorney on cases like this, is
because you have not given all the details which might affect this
case, and it is probably not appropriate to do so. (e.g. -
circumstances of conception, that is, an involved relationship or
casual sex; his involvement with you and later the child; the number
of times he has seen the child; the name given the child on the birth
It is true back in the 80's, there was a case where a divorced father
was upset because the mother changed the children's name, and the
judge ruled she could do so. That was a divorce case, the father had
had a long-term relationship with his kids, and I thought it stunk,
but in the case of unwed mother, there should be no problem if you
simply go ahead and do that. Without asking.
I know in some states, the child takes your name if the father's name
is not on the birth certificate. If your surname is already on the
b/c, put it out of your mind.