Vital records include items such as birth, death and marriage certificates. For children, the most significant — and typically the only — vital record is the birth certificate, and this certificate is important for establishing identity. There are several reasons why a parent might want to change his child's name on her birth certificate. An error on the certificate and newly established paternity are common reasons for changing the name on a child's vital records, and these name changes are typically simple. Other reasons for a name change can be more complicated.
Complete a petition for legitimation from the family court in in the county in which you reside. The father must take a paternity test to establish paternity if the mother will not sign a stipulation to the father's paternity. Check the box on the certificate indicating that you wish to have the child's name changed.
File the petition with the clerk of court. If the petition is part of child custody or child support proceedings, you can greatly benefit from hiring a competent family law attorney. If you are merely attempting to establish paternity and change the child's name to the father's, however, a judge will issue an order formally changing the child's name.
Attend all hearings if you are engaged in a dispute over paternity. When your case is completed, the judge will enter a final order listing the child's new name. In most cases, the court will send this order to the Georgia Office of Vital Records, but you should check with the Office of Vital Records to ensure the name has been changed. Then order a copy of the new birth certificate.
Birth Certificate Errors
Complete a birth certificate request form from the Georgia Department of Community Health. Fill out the form and check the box requesting a certified copy, which is required for birth certificate changes. Pay the fee for the certificate.
Circle the changes you want made on the birth certificate and attach a written request itemizing the changes. The Office of Vital Records is more likely to change the birth certificate if the request is signed by both parents.
Attach the fee for changing the records and return to the Office of Vital Records. If you are requesting a change due to clerical error or misspelling, the office is likely to change the certificate without a problem. If the office does not change the certificate, you will have to file a formal petition for name change. Follow the steps in Section 3.
Name Change Petition
Fill out a petition for name change and verification at the family division of the Superior Court in the county in which you reside. If both parents — or guardians, if your child has them — agree to the name change, both should sign the petition. If only one parent is requesting the name change, you must serve the other parent and any guardians with the petition. You should ask the sheriff to serve the Office of Vital Records and Department of Human Resources. There may be a fee associated with service.
Attach any records relevant to your petition for name change. If, for example, you recently divorced and wish to change your child's name, attach the final divorce decree. If you have affidavits from professionals or any other evidence that a name change is in the child's best interest, attach these as well.
Wait for the judge to view the records. If anyone objects to the name change, there may be a hearing at which each side argues their case. If a hearing is scheduled, you may want to hire a family law attorney to represent your interests. In most cases, however, the judge will automatically change the name and enter a final order. Deliver the final order to the Office of Vital Records and Department of Human Resources.
If the father and mother of the child were unmarried at the time of birth but are now married, you can complete a paternity acknowledgment at the Office of Vital Records and request the name change in person.
If your child is older or you are unable to serve a parent or guardian, you may be required to advertise the requested name change in a local newspaper.
- Southern Judicial Circuit: Changing the Father's Name on a Birth Certificate
- Georgia Divorce, Alimony and Child Custody; Dan E. McConaughey
- Family Law in a Nutshell; Harry D. Krause
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.