How to Change Names on a Birth Certificate

By Teo Spengler
Typos, a birth certificate, you

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You can correct a mistake on your child's birth certificate by filling out the correct forms in most states, as long as you act quickly. For name changes on a birth certificate, as opposed to corrections, you must first get a court order.

Correcting Mistakes

You named your baby Heather but it shows up on the birth certificate as Leather. You can get misspellings on the birth certificate corrected for free in most states, like California and Arizona, as long as you act within a year of the birth. Obtain the proper form from the appropriate state department, fill it in and you are good to go. You can also use the form to fill in spaces left blank or correct the spelling of the parents' names. Don't try to switch first and middle names this way, however, or to change a name written in one language (Juan) to the equivalent in another language (John). If you wait too long, you will have to pay an administrative fee. The exact timing and procedures vary between states, so check the rules before you begin.

Name Change Order for Adults

To change a name on a birth certificate, you first need a court order permitting the change. You need to file a petition for a name change with the court, identifying your current name and your proposed new name. Exact procedure varies among states, but in general you must pay a newspaper to publish the fact of the pending name change for several consecutive weeks to advise creditors and prevent fraud. You must answer questions about any past criminal record and may be disqualified if you have been convicted of certain types of crimes. Assuming this is not the case, the court will issue an order officially changing your name at the hearing.

Name Change Order for Kids

If you wish to change the name of a minor, the process is more complex in most states. If both parents file the petition together and the child agrees to the name change, the process approximates that of an adult name change. If, however, one parent doesn't go along or, in some states, if your teenage child opposes the name change, you will probably want to hire an attorney. You'll need to legally deliver the papers on the other parent, prepare your evidence, and persuade the court that a name change is in the child's best interests. Sometimes a guardian is appointed to represent the child's interests. In some states, like New York, a child 14 years or older must give his consent to a name change.

Changing Name on Birth Certificate

Once the court has ordered a name change, you are ready to file to have the birth certificate amended. First, obtain a certified copy of the name change order -- a copy of the order with an original seal of the court clerk stamp. You fill out required paperwork and submit it with the fee and the certified copy of the court name change order. It is helpful and may speed things up to include a copy of the current birth certificate as well.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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