Best Way to Legally Change a Child's Last Name

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Legally changing the last name of a minor child is a uniform procedure across the 50 States and the District of Columbia. Each entity has their own forms and filing fees, but the approval or denial of the request is made by the presiding judge in the county, city or district court where the name change petition is filed. The final decision will be made based on the justification for the request and the best interest of the child. Each state?s website for downloadable forms can be found at www.namechangelaw.com/states.html. Forms can also be gotten in person from the local courthouse.

Who May Apply for a Name Change:
To change a minor?s last name, the requester must be a parent, a legal guardian, or adults seeking an adoption. A situation could be where the mother never married the father and now either wants to change the child?s last name to her maiden name or for the child to acquire the father?s last name. If the father?s name was not initially listed on the birth certificate, he has the right to request a DNA test before consenting to the use of his name.

Legal Action Steps:

First: File a petition with the court clerk explaining why a name change is being requested. Depending on local policies, the petitioner may be required to publish a notice of the petition in a public newspaper or on a court website.

Second: Provide the court with documents supporting the petitioner?s relationship to the child. These can be the child?s birth certificate, divorce papers if the parents were married, the requester?s personal identification, or legal guardianship documents.

Third: File a notarized affidavit of consent from the biological father showing his agreement to the name change.

Fourth: Attend a hearing on the petition. When the biological father does not agree to the name change, the judge will schedule another hearing to listen to both sides of the case. The judge will want valid justification from the father in order to deny a name change request. The judge will render a decision after the hearings.

Fifth: A copy of the legal document showing a name change approval will allow the child to start using the new last name. The original birth certificate cannot be changed to reflect a new name. For future legal purposes, all parties need to keep copies of all documents related to the name change.

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