The ease with which you can change your child’s surname to match your married name depends a great deal on whether her father objects and how active he is in his life. If you meet with a wall of resistance, it can be difficult, but not impossible. Ultimately, it will usually come down to a judge’s opinion as to whether the change will benefit your child.
Speak with your child’s father. If he agrees to the change, ask him to sign a consent. These forms are generally available at your local county courthouse.
Read More: Father's Rights in a Child's Last Name Change
Get a form for a petition for name change. These are also usually available at your courthouse. When you speak with the court clerk, ask what additional forms may be necessary in your state. For example, in New Jersey, you must also submit a certification, explaining to the court that you want to change your child’s name so it is consistent with yours. New York requires you to prepare an order for the eventual name change, as well as a notice to all interested parties.
Complete the paperwork required in your jurisdiction and submit it to the court for filing. Some states also require you to file a copy of your child’s current birth certificate with his current surname. If your child’s father has signed a consent, file it along with your other paperwork.
Give a copy of your filed paperwork to your child’s father. New Jersey allows you to send it by certified mail, return receipt requested. Other states require service by sheriff or private process server. In Arizona, if you don’t know where your child’s father can be located, you can file a notice in the newspaper if the court gives you permission to use this option. Your state might also offer this option.
Appear before a judge on the appointed date. In some states, when you file your petition, the clerk will assign you a hearing date at that time. Other states will send you a notice in the mail. If your child's father objects to the name change, he can file a written objection to your petition before the hearing, or he can appear at the hearing to make his objection known at that time. If he does either of these things, you usually have the opportunity to present your side of the story to the judge and explain why changing his name is in your child's best interests. If the father doesn’t file a response or appear in court, there’s a good chance a judge will grant your request.
Contact the Department of Public Records in your state to find out how to request a new birth certificate for your child, if the judge grants your request. In most states, this is usually a simple matter of filling out a form and submitting the court order the judge signed, allowing the name change.
Some states, such as Washington, require that your child give consent as well if he’s over a certain age. In Washington, that age is 14. Other states, such as New Jersey, will take your child’s wishes into consideration if her father objects.
If you’ve gotten your child’s father’s written consent and you file it along with your petition, your request will generally go through the court system uncontested and without a hearing. You’ll receive a copy of the order allowing the name change in the mail.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.