Laws for Changing a Child's Last Name

By Anna Green

State laws govern the changing of children's last names. Because the laws vary, it is advisable for parents to discuss their jurisdiction's laws with an attorney or the clerk of the court before beginning the name change process.

You might need a court order to change your child's last name.

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General Process

To change your child's last name, you must obtain a court order. As a safeguard against fraud, you will also publish notice of the name change in a newspaper or other public forum.

Parentage

You will not need a special court order to change a child's last name if she is adopted and taking the new parents' last name. Likewise, if the family determines the identity of a previously unknown father and wishes to give the child his name, they will not be required to obtain a special court order.

Parental Consent

To change a last name for reasons other than adoption or paternity test results, both parents must consent to the name change in writing.

Petition

To apply for a name change via court order, the child's custodial parent must file a petition for name change with the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction where the family lives.

Information to Include

The name change petition should outline the child's previous name, proposed last name and the reasons the family is initiating the name change.

Child's Opinion

If the child is old enough to understand the implications of a change in last name, the court might ask her opinion on the issue before making a ruling on the petition.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

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