Naming a child is an important personal decision for every family. While some families struggle to choose first names for their babies, others wonder which surname to choose for their children. In Georgia, families must file a birth certificate with the child's name within five days of the baby's birth.
Major life events can also present the need to change a child’s last name. Divorce, adoption or DNA testing can make families want to make a change. Each state has unique rules regarding surnames for children.
Georgia Law: Naming a Baby at Birth
The options for a baby’s surname at the time of birth depend on two factors: the marital status of the mother and established paternity. If the mother of the child is married either at the time of the conception or the child’s birth, the state assumes that her husband is the father unless a court determines otherwise. When a married mother and father name a child, they can choose either of their last names or a combination of their surnames, as long as both parents agree.
If the mother is not married at the time of birth or conception, the rules depend entirely on the legal acknowledgment of paternity. If both the mother and the alleged father agree to his parentage, they can name the baby as a married couple would. If the father is unknown or does not consent to having his name on the birth certificate, the mother must give her child her own surname.
Court orders can supersede any of the laws for naming a child in Georgia. For example, if a court determines that someone is the father, the mother does not need his consent to give the baby his surname. In this type of case, courts often directly address the name of the child, and those orders should be followed exactly.
Changing a Child’s Name When Both Parents Agree
Georgia laws put a lot of emphasis on the consent of both parents when naming a child. If both the mother and father on the birth certificate agree to change the child’s name, they should first get name change petition and verification forms from the courthouse in the county which the child lives.
Then, the parents should fill out the forms from the court but leave the signatures blank. When they are ready to sign the documents, they both should bring their photo IDs to the clerk at the Georgia Superior Court. Parents can then sign the papers in front of the clerk and get the clerk to notarize them.
Run a Legal Notice in a Newspaper
When before the clerk, parents should ask which newspaper they need to use to run a notice. They must run a legal notice in that paper, get a copy of the paper, send the proof of publication to the court, and request a court date for the name change.
Attend a Court Hearing
Next, parents must complete their sections of the final order and disposition information forms provided by the court. At the name-change hearing, both parents should be present and bring these forms.
Changing a Child’s Name With Just One Parent’s Agreement
There are very limited circumstances under which one parent can change a child’s name without the written consent of the other. First, if the other parent has passed away, the surviving parent can change the child’s name.
If both parents are alive, one parent can unilaterally change the child’s name if the other has failed to pay child support for the previous five years. In such a case, the parent must petition the court for the name change.
In rare cases, a court may decide to change a child’s name if paternity is revealed after the birth and the creation of the original birth certificate. However, the petitioning father must prove to the court that doing so would be in the best interest of the child.
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