Perhaps the hospital where your child was born spelled the name wrong on her newborn birth certificate. Or maybe the parent's name is written incorrectly. You might even just want a different spelling of your child's name now that you've had time to think about it. In any case, it's essential that you correct the mistake.
A birth certificate is one of the most important identification documents a person will ever have, and spelling errors can block the person's attempts to obtain a passport, driver's license or marriage certificate.
Contact Your State Department of Health
First, contact your state's Vital Records office, a division of the state Department of Health. You can find contact information through the Center for Disease Control's Vital Records website. In most cases, you won't need a court order to correct the spelling, but you might need one if your child is over the age of 1. Each state has different rules, however, so clarify the process before you begin.
Correcting the Child's Name
If you are simply correcting a child's name on a birth certificate, gather at least one piece of evidence to show the correct spelling of the child's name, per state requirements. It might be enough to provide a notarized letter from a parent citing the correct spelling if the infant was born within the past year. Otherwise, you'll need supporting documents such as a church or baptismal record, hospital record, physician's record of birth, immunization records, grade-school record, insurance policy or other official record that corroborates the proper spelling.
If you want to change the spelling of your child's name on the birth certificate completely, or use a different last name, you must typically get a court order to do so.
Correcting Parent Information
You'll generally need at least two forms of identification showing the correct name when a parent's name is misspelled. This might include the parent's birth certificate, passport, marriage license, record of military service, census records, driver's license, state ID card or Social Security Administration record. The child's parents should also submit a copy of a valid photo I.D. with the application in most states.
Changing Information As an Adult
There may be instances where, as an adult, you want to change the name on your own birth certificate. While no changes are required if you are changing your name due to marriage, you might opt for a different name from your legal name.
You must first file a name change petition with the court in this case. You must then request a new birth certificate through the Department of Vital Records and pay the required fees if and when your petition is approved. It's not a requirement that you change the name on your birth certificate if you legally change your name as an adult, however.
File an Application
Fill out your state's birth certificate correction application and sign it. Deliver it to the Department of Vital Records with your supporting documents and the application fee, which can vary depending on the state.
The Department of Vital Records will agree to correct the spelling only if it's satisfied that the evidence you submitted proves the person's name. Each case will be different, so speak with someone in the Vital Records Office about how you should validate the correct spelling.
Getting a Court Order
If your state requires a court order before it will correct a birth certificate, you'll most likely have to take several steps. File and submit a petition to the local family court, and attach documents to your petition showing what the correct spelling should be. Appear before the judge on your court date and explain why you want to correct the name.
The judge might approve the petition and issue a court order changing the name without a hearing if both parents file the petition together.
Send the court order to the state Office for Vital Statistics to have the birth certificate changed. Attach a completed correction application and any fees you are required to pay when you mail in your court order.
Spelling issues on a birth certificate can be often be corrected without a court order. Parents can simply complete a correction application and offer supporting documents as validation of the correct spelling.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Where to Write for Vital Records
- The People’s Law Library of Maryland: Correcting or Changing the Name on a Maryland Birth Certificate
- NYC Health: Correct a Birth Certificate
- Family Law Self-Help Center: Birth Certificate Corrections
- Pine Tree Legal Assistance: Amending Your Birth Certificate
- You must be the parent or legal guardian to request an amendment for a child under 18.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.