Legal Ways to Change a Child's Last Name in Missouri

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In Missouri, a person can change a child’s name by filing a petition for change of name for a minor. A parent or both parents can change a child’s last name without an adoption taking place. Parents and minor children can also join in a petition for name change for the entire family. The second process allows one petition to take the place of several to make the process easier.

Basic Name Change Process for a Minor

Legally filing for a new name for a minor is a more complicated process than filing for a new name for an adult. The basic steps are:

  1. File a verified petition for change of name by parent for minor child (CAFC 402).
  2. Submit a written notarized consent document, or agreement, of both known parents or service on a non-consenting parent.
  3. File a petition, consent, and order for parent’s appointment of next friend (CAFC 411).
  4. Submit written notarized consent of the child, if age 14 years of age or older, and the appointment of next friend.
  5. Attend possible hearing.
  6. Entry of judgment.
  7. Publication.

The name is considered officially changed on the date that the court enters judgment. The petition for legal name change for a minor must be filed in the circuit court of the county where the child lives. The city of St. Louis is considered a county.

Missouri Name Change Filing Fees

The county charges a filing fee, typically around $135. A person who cannot afford the filing fee must file a motion and affidavit in support of request to proceed as a poor person, titled the In Forma Pauperis Application (GN10). This form requests information such as the petitioner’s monthly income, monthly expenses, assets and debts.

Parental Consent Required

When changing a child’s name, both parents must consent. If the other parent does not consent, the petitioner must provide the other parent with notice of the pending lawsuit. Then the other parent can object and participate in litigation.

How Long Does a Minor Name Change Take?

The process of a name change takes as much time as the court needs to process the paperwork and hold a hearing. This could be several months, and the process can take longer if a parent or other party with legal custody over the child is evading service of the petition.

Name Change for an Entire Family

There is not a distinct form for changing the name of the entire family. A family can get a name change if an adult completes a petition for change of name (CAFC 401) and includes the minor children whose names they want to change. The court has discretion as to whether to change the names of the children.

What’s on the Petition?

The petition for changing the legal name of a child requests certain information:

  • Child’s legal name.
  • Child’s birth date.
  • Child’s signature, if age 14 or above.
  • Parent’s legal name.
  • Parent’s status as mother or father of the child.
  • Parent’s address.
  • Address where the child resides.
  • Reason for the child’s name change.
  • Parent’s consent to serving as next friend for the name change.
  • Name, Missouri Bar number, and address of attorney, if an attorney helped the parent complete the petition.

A child’s next friend is usually the child’s physical custodian.

Service of Petition on Parents

If the written consent of each known parent is not filed, there will need to be service of a copy of the petition and a notice of the date of the hearing on each non-consenting known parent at least 30 days before the hearing date.

The service should be by registered or certified mail sent to the last known address of the non-consenting parent. The service will be proved by the certificate of the court clerk that a mailed copy of the petition and notice was sent by registered or certified mail.

Hearing on Name Change Request

Typically, a name change involving a minor requires an appearance by the parties in court. This means that both the child and parents should come to court. Some courts issue a notice of hearing telling the parties when and where to appear. An attorney may be able to appear on the parties’ behalf.

Publication of Notice of the Name Change

After the court has rendered its judgment, the petitioner, typically the parent, is required to make public notice of the child’s name change at least once a week for three consecutive weeks. The notice must appear in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the minor lives. The proof of this notice must also be filed in the office of circuit clerk, which may be the court administrator’s office.

The proof must be filed within 10 days of the last publication. Publication is not required if the petitioner is the victim of a crime considered domestic violence, child abuse or abuse by a family or household member.

Changing the Birth Certificate

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Vital Statistics will amend the birth certificate to show the new name of a child. The child must be born in Missouri. If the child was born elsewhere, that state’s department of health is the agency to amend the birth certificate.

Missouri charges $15 to amend the birth certificate and $15 for each certified copy of the amended birth certificate. It may take 12 to 16 weeks to amend the birth certificate.

For the department to amend the birth certificate, the child, their parents, their guardian or their legal representative must make a request and provide a certified copy of the name change judgment. Vital records such as a birth certificate are not open to the general public. Missouri law allows only a certified copy of a vital record to be issued to a person with a direct and tangible interest in the record.

Name Change in Other Proceedings

Sometimes a name change for a minor can take place in another legal proceeding, such as a divorce or adoption. Typically the change of name is requested in the original proceedings and placed in the final judgment. A person may then take a certified copy of the judgment to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Vital Statistics to amend the child’s birth certificate.