Obtaining a name change involves completing and filing paperwork. For parents of minor children, this process can vary from state to state and generally requires going to court. In addition, some states make consent of the other parent mandatory, while other states allow name changes without such consent. Understanding the specific rules for filing your request will help minimize delays in petitioning the court for the name change of your minor son or daughter.
In most states, the process for changing the name of a minor begins with the filing of a petition. The petition requires you to indicate the present full name of the child as well as the proposed name change. The document must also include basic information about yourself and the other parent, and whether the child has a criminal record or any outstanding money judgments against him. Once this form is complete, it must be signed and notarized.
State law requires that you notify the other parent regarding the name change. This is known as service of process and is accomplished in the same manner as service of other legal documents. Generally, personal service, usually by the sheriff's office or someone over 18, is required unless the other parent waives this right and accepts service by mail. If both parents agree on the name change, they may avoid service in some states by filing the petition jointly.
By law, some states require the other parent to file a consent form before a court will order the name change of a minor. In Indiana, for example, unless the other parent has committed a crime against the child, abandoned the child, or failed to stay in contact with the child, consent is mandatory. Other states, such as Florida, encourage agreement, but will not necessarily deny a petition that lacks a consent form. The consent form simply indicates the other parent's acknowledgement of the name change and that the consent is not the product of coercion or undue influence. The consent form must also be notarized and, once executed, is irrevocable.
Once the petition has been filed and served and consent given, if applicable, the court will schedule a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, the judge will review your request and the reasons provided in the petition as well as any objections from the other parent. If the court approves the petition, a judgment will be issued in the form of a court order. The court clerk will generally make certified copies of the name change, which you will need to file at the appropriate government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and state Vital Records Office.