Most name changes do not require a change to your birth certificate. In fact, state offices of vital records will refuse to change the name on your birth certificate if you changed your name due to a marriage or a divorce. Many states will, however, change the name on your birth certificate if you changed your name for reasons such as adoption or gender reassignment surgery. State laws vary on the procedure for changing the name on a birth certificate.
The Court Order
Most state departments of vital records require a court order before they will change the name on your birth certificate, and state laws differ on the procedures and grounds for obtaining a court-ordered name change. To apply for a court-ordered name change you must file a petition, pay a filing fee and attend a hearing. Many states require you to publish a notice of your name change petition in a local newspaper. You may also be required to provide documentation such as an adoption decree, which establishes the reason for changing your name. An adult must file a petition on behalf of a minor, and the minor's parents must be notified.
You must petition the office of vital records in the state where you were born to amend your birth certificate and pay a filing fee. You will have to present them with a certified copy of the court order and a certified copy of your original birth certificate. You may also need to explain why your new name should be reflected on your birth certificate, since it wasn't your name at the time you were born.
Amended Birth Certificates
When a birth certificate is amended, a document reflecting the amendment is appended to your original birth certificate. This means that your old birth certificate with your old name will remain on file with the office of vital records. Some states use this amendment procedure when a name is changed for certain reasons, such as gender reassignment.
Replacement Birth Certificates
Some states create a new birth certificate instead of amending the old one. This practice of completely replacing original birth certificates is particularly important in adoption cases because it allows birth parents the option to amend their child's birth certificate at the time of the adoption to conceal their identity from the adopted child. The office of vital records may keep the original birth certificate in a sealed file that can be accessed only for a certain purpose, such as a criminal investigation.
References & Resources
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images