How to Obtain a Legal Name Change for a Child
After reviewing the free forms and information on this website, you may decide that you want to use another service to help you through the process, or may seek out an actual attorney for additional counsel. We encourage this, as we repeatedly mention throughout this website, some situations indeed require the assistance of an attorney. Do not be penny-wise and pound foolish. It is better to spend what you may believe to be too much money now, to avoid being forced to spend much more later.
Choose your state below to start the process:
The Mechanics are the Same
The procedure to change the name of an Adult is basically the same, but there are some additional hurdles and considerations of which you should be aware. Furthermore, the legal forms will be somewhat different to account for these issues.
First, the requirements for changing a child’s name are generally stricter than that of an adult. For example, most states require that the court find that the change is “in the best interest of the child.”
Second, both parents will almost always need to consent to the change. If a parent with parental rights will not consent, the name change becomes much more difficult and this is a situation that we suggest obtaining an attorney. If one of the parents has died, it is necessary to produce a certified death certificate to the court.
Lastly, there are common disputes that occur in these situations and an attorney is generally imperative. For example, common dispute occurs when a remarried spouse wants to change her children’s last name to that of her new husband’s last name. Often times, the former husband (and biological father to the children) objects, resulting in a lengthy and costly hearing. The standard for such cases is, again, that the name change be in the child’s “best interest.” Generally, courts do not hold that such a change qualifies though exceptions certainly exist and will be highly dependent on the facts of each case, as well as the precedent (how prior cases were decided) in your local court. Again, an attorney is likely necessary for this type of situation.
Completing Your Legal Forms
- Name Change Petition for a Child: This is the legal form that starts the entire process with the court. It will have to contain your old name, the new name you want, the reason you want to change it, information that makes it clear you over 18 and a resident of the county in which you are filing it. Individual state laws may require additional information.
- Consent to Change the Name of a Minor: As described above, a minor’s name change requires the consent of both parents listed on the birth certificate. If both do not consent, the non-consenting parent must receive notice of the name change so that they may object if they desire. These consent forms are to be filed with the petition.
- Notice of Publication of Name Change: Many courts do not require that you publish notice of child’s name change for privacy reasons, but again, each parent must be informed. If your state our county requires it, this is the document that your local newspaper or courthouse will publish somewhere to inform the public that you are requesting a name change. The procedure varies by state and county, but the purpose is so everyone will be informed of the name change so that they may take whatever action is deemed necessary (e.g., going to your hearing to object to the change, making note of it because you happen to owe them money, etc.)
- Affidavit: This is a document that you must sign in front of a notary public. Some states or counties require that you swear you are over the age of 18 and the information in your petition is truthful.
- Judgment Entry Ordering Your Name Change: Some states require that the Judge enter an order commanding the newspaper to publish your Notice of Publication of Name Change. This is a document that you prepare and the judge signs.
- Affidavit or Proof of Publication: This is an Affidavit that the newspaper (or other agency) that published your Notice of Publication of Name Change will sign as proof that you published it. Many courts require something like this be brought along to your hearing date to ensure you have followed all of the requirements.
- Judgment Entry Ordering Name Change: This is the official document that the Judge or court officer will sign ordering your name change. You will make certified copies of this document and it will serve as your “proof of name change” for when you notify all of the appropriate government and private agencies.
Filing Your Forms and Getting a Hearing Date
Preliminarily, contact the clerk of your county’s Probate Court to find out what the filing fee is so that you will be sure to bring the correct amount with you.
After you have completed the above-described forms, take them to your local clerk of the local Probate Court of your county. The filing clerk will give you a receipt of your filing, a case number and will either give you a hearing date, or tell you where to obtain one.
Publication of Your Notice of Name Change
Again, many states do not require public notification for minor’s name changes. If your state does, determine whether you must coordinate publishing your Notice of Name Change with your local newspaper on your own or if your court does it for you. Contact your clerk prior to going to going in to find out what your state does. If you need to do it, you may also want to ask what newspaper they recommend to ensure you are not publishing it in a newspaper they deem unacceptable.
Once you decide on the appropriate newspaper, coordinate with them (or the Court) to ensure you will obtain the Affidavit of Publication from the newspaper or courthouse so that you can bring it to your hearing if required.
Attending the Hearing
Simply show up for the hearing date on time and explain that you want a name change when the court calls your name.
To ensure that it goes well, you should read your paperwork again to ensure that you understand everything in it. Make sure to bring the copies of the stamped forms you already filed, your affidavit/proof of publication, and any locally required forms with you.
The procedure is generally fairly informal, but be sure to address the Judge as Your Honor, be respectful, and always tell the truth. When your case is called, hand over your paperwork to the court officer and simply answer the Judge’s questions truthfully.
Start your legal name change now!