In the state of Alabama, an individual who wants to change the name of a minor child should file a petition for the minor’s name change in probate court. A minor child is considered a person under the age of 19; a person 19 or older can change their own name. The minor child must be a resident of the county in which the petitioner files the request for a name change.
The signatures on the form must be notarized before filing. An informal name change is not considered a legal name change.
Who Files an Alabama Name Change
An adult with legal authority relating to a minor child can change the child’s name. Such parties include the minor child’s parents, guardian or conservator. A conservator is a court-appointed person or organization who cares for an individual who cannot care for themselves or manage their own finances. A minor is not allowed to change their own name.
Typically, the person requesting the name change must be a resident of the county in which they file the petition. If the petitioner’s driver’s license indicates they have an address that is out of county or out of state, they must present proof of residency when they file the petition. This can be a utility bill, real estate deed or lease.
Filing Petition by Attorney
An attorney may file a petition for a change of name if the mother or father refuses to consent to the change. An attorney may also file a petition if the whereabouts of either the child's mother or father are unknown. In addition, an attorney may file a petition if the child’s birth certificate does not list a father’s name and there is not a court order or blood test stating the name of the father. A minor, conservator or guardian who wants to change a minor’s name, but does not have an attorney, can contact the Alabama State Bar Association to get the name of an attorney who may be able to help.
Criminal History Background Check from the ABI
Both parents will need to obtain certified criminal history background checks based on fingerprints from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI). The parents must go through this process unless they are deceased or parental rights have been terminated. There is a fee for the background checks. The ABI will accept either a cashier’s check or money order. Parents must bring their driver’s licenses or state photo identification cards.
Parents also must bring the certified criminal background checks from the ABI to the probate court when filing for a name change. The ABI can print out a copy of the applicant fingerprint cards the parents need to submit to the FBI. There is no charge for this service.
Additional Criminal History Background Check from the FBI
Parents must also obtain certified criminal history background checks from the FBI. Both parents must go through this process unless the parents are deceased or parental rights have been terminated. The parents should go to the FBI’s website, choose the Stats and Services option, then Criminal History Summary checks.
Parents should fill out the Application Information form and print it out. There is a fee to obtain these criminal history checks. The FBI accepts payment in the form of a cashier’s check, money order or credit card.
Other Documents Needed for Name Change
The parents must also bring to court a certified copy of the minor child’s birth certificate. A county may require that the certified copy be dated within the last six months or the last 30 days. If the child was born in Alabama, the document can be obtained from the Alabama Center for Health Statistics. If the child was born in a foreign country and the birth certificate is in a foreign language, a certified translator must translate the birth certificate into English.
If the father’s name is not listed on the birth certificate, the court will require a certified copy of the court order or blood test that states this individual is the natural father. If the parental rights of the natural mother or father have been terminated, the court will require a certified copy of the court order terminating parental rights. In addition, the court requires the consent of the minor if they are over 14 years of age.
The court requires a picture identification of the petitioner, as well as proof of residence mentioned earlier. The court further requires the Social Security cards of the natural parents and minor child. The court requires a filing fee plus additional recording costs to be determined when the petition is filed. Payment can be by cash, check, credit card or money order.
Tips for Name Changes
It is a good idea to request additional certified copies of the name change order. The certified copies may be necessary to update the minor’s legal name with other agencies. Typically there is a hearing if one parent is not available to sign the petition for a name change. This is because a number of Alabama counties require that both parents sign the petition if both parents’ names appear on the child’s birth certificate.
Questions on Petition for Change
The petition for a minor’s name change may ask the petitioner to certify that there are no pending or prior civil legal cases involving the minor child or the petitioner regarding the child. These include custody, visitation, child support, contempt, domestic violence, adoption, protection from abuse, termination of parental rights, delinquency or dependency in any state or foreign country.
The petition may also ask whether there is a federal, state, county or other government agency that has current or pending oversight, custody or control over the minor child. The petition may ask whether the minor has been a ward or a dependent in any juvenile court. The petition may also ask whether the minor is or has ever been married.
Documentation to Support Name Change
A judge makes the decision to change the name of a minor according to what is in the best interests of the child. The judge will hear the child’s preference, the length of time the child has used their preferred and prior names, the difficulties the child has experienced from using the prior name, and the motives and interests of the petitioner. An adult who advocates for a minor’s name change should bring evidence to submit to the court to show why the name change is in the child’s best interest. Evidence may include letters or testimonies from teachers, family and friends.
- Jefferson County Probate Court: Name Change
- Montgomery County Probate Court: Name Change
- Alabama State Bar Association: Homepage
- Jefferson County Probate Court: Petition and Declaration for Change of Name of Minor Child
- Jefferson County Probate Court: Instructions for Change of Name (Minor)
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Name Changes for Minors in Alabama
- Houston County Probate Court: Guidelines, Minor Name Change
- Shelby County Probate Court: Name Change
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.