There are several reasons parents may want to change a child's name. Maybe the parents married after the child was born and want the child's name to reflect that. Maybe the parents divorced and want to change a child's name to that of the custodial parent.
In Arizona, parents may change a child's name until the child is a year old. After that, a court order is required.
Children less than a year old
To change the name of a child less than a year old, Arizona requires an affidavit and at least one independent document backing up the information in the affidavit. Both parents have to sign the affidavit unless only one parent is listed on the child's birth certificate. Parents can visit the Office of Vital Records in person or file a request through the mail.
Documents accepted to back up the affidavit include the child's baptismal record, blessing certificate, immunization record and medical records. The document must have been created before the child turned six months old and include the date and the child's full name. An Arizona state registrar may require more documents.
If a child's paternity has not been legally established, the birth mother and alleged father can collectively file an acknowledgment of who the child's father is. The child's name will be changed at the same time paternity is established. This applies if the child's birth mother and biological father married after the child was born.
Parents can visit the Office of Vital Records in person or file a request through the mail.
Children older than one year
If one parent objects, you will have to notify him about the hearing on the name change. He can sign a document saying he was told about the hearing. You can also serve notice by certified mail or through a process server who is legally allowed to deliver the papers. If the other parent is served through certified mail, this has to be done at least 30 days before the hearing on the name change. The court is less likely to grant the name change if one parent objects, especially if he has kept up a relationship with the child. The court may approve the child's name change even if one parent objects.
If you don't know where the other parent is, you can serve notice to her by printing the Petition for Change of name in a newspaper where the other parent was last known to have lived.
Before publishing the petition in a newspaper, try to find the other parent. You can do this by contacting her family, friends or last employer.
Once you have a court order to change your child's name, file a certified copy of the order with the Arizona Office of Vital Records. Parents can visit the office in person or file a request through the mail.
There are no additional steps to change the name of a child who is being adopted. This is taken care of during the adoption process with no additional fees.
Rebecca VanderMeulen is an award-winning reporter who has interviewed nudists, preschoolers, farmers, college presidents and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. As a newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania, she wrote about school and municipal issues, higher education and many other topics.