A name helps to tell the story of a person's life, and changes to a child's last name usually occur at a major life event. It may be the divorce of the parents. It may be adoption. It may be an unmarried father coming back into the life of a child. In Georgia, the father of a child born out of wedlock can seek to have the child take his last name when he files paternity and parenting papers. Otherwise, a child's name change requires the consent of both parents.
Baby's Last Name Laws in Georgia
Georgia laws regarding a newborn's name on a birth certificate are very specific. If the child's mother is married at the time the child was conceived or born, the husband is presumed to be the biological father. But the child need not be given the last name of the husband. Rather, a married woman gets to choose the name to insert on the birth certificate.
If an unmarried woman gives birth and the father acknowledges paternity, the couple can select a last name for the child. This can be the last name of the mother, the last name of the father, a hyphenated last name or another last name entirely. However, if an unmarried woman gives birth and the father has not acknowledged paternity, Georgia law mandates that the last name of the child be the same as the mother.
Read More: Paternity Law Regarding Baby's Surname in Georgia
Georgia Name Changes
Let's presume that an unmarried woman gives birth and uses her own name for the baby according to law. The father of the child can file suit to determine his paternity and get parenting rights. At the same time, he can also ask the court to have the child take his last name. The court grants this if it is in the child's best interest. This is the only change of the child's name permitted without consent of both parents.
If anyone wishes to change the last name of a child in other circumstances, Georgia law requires that both parents give written consent. If a parent doesn't agree, the name remains the same. The only exceptions are when one parent is deceased or has abandoned the child (defined as failing to provide support for at least five years). In that case, the remaining parent can make the decision.
Fulton County Name Changes
How to proceed? Although each county in Georgia has slightly different requirements, the Fulton County name change procedure is typical. You must fill in the petition, setting out information about the child, the parents and the reason for the name change. Attach to this a consent form signed by the parents before a notary, the notice of name change, a verification and the fees for filing and publishing.
For Fulton County name changes, the notice of name change must be published once a week for four weeks in the Fulton County Daily Report. The clerk's office can arrange this when you file the other papers.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. 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 MA and an MFA in English/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.