Changing the last name of a child can occur because of divorce, adoption or estrangement. The process typically includes obtaining a court’s approval. If you are looking to answer the question how do I change my child’s last name, you will need to begin with the formal approval of the court.
Obtaining Court Approval
Preparing for Court
In order to legally change the last name of a minor, the parent or legal guardian will need to obtain a court order. The requestor will file a petition within the local municipality or court to request the name change of their child. The judge will rule according to the best interest of the child. What this means is that both parents will need to consent to this name change. If one parent is estranged from the child, the custodial parent will typically need to provide proof that the notice was given or attempted to be given to the estranged parent. Sometimes notice cannot be given because there is no known address for the estranged parent. If this is the case, the custodial parent will need to inform the judge. In these cases, the courts generally ask that the custodial parent run an ad in the newspaper that serves as a public notice to the name change. Most jurisdictions require the custodial parent to run the ad in the newspaper anywhere from three days to three weeks. Each jurisdiction has specific requirements for the length of time the ad should run.
Day in Court
The judge will ask for the reason the name change is requested. In the case of divorce, the custodial parent wishes for the child to have their last name for logistic reasons. There are cases where the custodial parent re-marries and wishes for the child to take on the name of the custodial parent’s new spouse. The judge makes their decision based on the best interest of the child. If the parent is in the process of getting a divorce or in the beginning or middle stages of adoption proceedings, the parent can usually include the name change petitions with these proceedings and do not need to be file these separately. Once the court approves the name change, the petitioner will be issued a court order. This document is very important for completing the child’s name change.
After the court order is obtained, the custodial parent will need to formally request the name change on all documents used as identification. These documents include:
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card
The custodial parent will need to pay the fee required when changing the legal last name on each of these documents. Sometimes the custodial parent will need to pay two sets of fees, one to change the name and sometimes a separate fee to receive a new document printed. Each jurisdiction charges different fees that can range from $20 up to $150. The custodial parent will typically need to provide a signed affidavit or consent form, the original birth certificate, social security card or passport, along with the court order given authorization to change the name. Once this documentation has been provided, the child will received their new legal birth certificate, passport or social security card. This new document will contain the child's new legal last name.
This should provide you with what you need to know for how to change your child's last name; you have information on the steps that will lead to your child's new last name. This information is no substitution for legal advice. Please consult an attorney regarding your individual case and circumstances.
Social Security Online "Get Help With Your Situation", http://www.ssa.gov/gethelp/gethelp1.htm
US Passport Service Guide "Passport Name Change", http://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/passport-name-change.html
Nolo Law For All, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/name-change-faq-29091.html
Image of Boy, http://www.sxc.hu/profile/superdecor
Image of Passport, http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bjearwicke