A divorce often means a name change for both parent and child. In Maryland, you must file the appropriate forms to change a child's name. If your child is old enough to understand a name change, talk to her about the decision to change her name. A name is an important part of a child's identity, and while a divorce can spark anger and the desire to separate the child completely from your ex-spouse, changing your child's name is not always in her best interest.
Ask the clerk of court in the county where the child resides for a Petition for Name Change (Minor), a Notice for Publication and a proposed Order for a Change of Name. If the child is less than one year old, you may not need a court order to change her name. For children older than one year, the court will look at whether the parents, guardians, as well as the child are in agreement with the name change.
Fill out the Petition for Name Change (Minor). It is advisable to have all parents or guardians sign separate consent forms. Attach the signed consent forms to the petition. Fill out the Proposed Order for a Name Change, leaving the date and judge's signature blank. Complete the Notice for Publication, leaving the last paragraph blank. Attach the child's birth certificate to the petition.
File the documents with the clerk of court at the circuit court in the county where the child resides. Maryland law requires name changes to be published in a local general circulation newspaper. You need to check with the clerk of court to determine if you must publish notice of the name change yourself, or if the clerk will arrange to have it published. If someone objects to the name change, he must file an objection and serve you with a copy. You have 15 days to respond to the objection by filing a written response to the court.
Serve a copy of the petition on any parents or guardians who have not consented to the name change, or who have not signed the consent forms. Wait for the clerk to send the petition to a judge. If no one contests the name change after publication of the notice and if all parents and guardians consent, the judge will likely sign the name change order and your child's name will be legally changed. If there is an objection to the name change, the judge will schedule a hearing.
You will receive a certified copy of the signed order in the mail. For a small fee, you can receive additional copies. You will need a certified copy of the Order for Name Change to change your child's name in places such as the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Social Security Administration and at school.
Laws frequently change, and some jurisdictions have slightly different procedures, so consult an attorney if you are unsure of how to complete your child's name change.
It is also advisable to consult an attorney if there are any objections to the name change.
- Maryland Judiciary: Instructions for Change of Name of a Minor
- Maryland Judiciary: Petition for Change of Name
- Family Law; William P. Statsky
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