How to Change a Baby's Last Name Legally

By Laura Payet

How to Change a Baby's Last Name Legally

By Laura Payet

State law governs the procedure for changing a baby's last name, so the specifics are different in each state. Despite local differences, however, the overall process in most places follows the same format. You must file a petition with the appropriate court, usually a county or district court, asking the judge for permission to make the change. It's much easier if you have the other parent's consent. Here's what to do.

Businesswoman holding baby smiling

1. Research your state's rules.

First, find out your state's specific rules and requirements. You can find this information online on your state legislature's website or by searching "petition for name change minor [your state name]." You need to know what papers to file, which court to file them in, how much the name change costs, and how to pay for it.

2. Confirm you meet your state's requirements.

To change a child's name, you must have a legal relationship to that child, generally as a parent or legal guardian. Some states also impose a residency requirement and may require you to have custody. You also need the other parent's consent if you can get it. Your state's procedure may be different when only one parent consents to the change.

3. Obtain a copy of the necessary forms.

Many states offer blank forms online. You can also visit the clerk's office of the court in the county where the child resides to obtain copies of the proper papers. The most common forms you need are a petition for name change, a consent form for the other parent, a notice form, and sometimes a form order for the judge's signature.

4. Obtain the other parent's consent.

If the baby has another legal parent who is not dead and whose parental rights have not been terminated, you must obtain that parent's consent to the name change, even if their name is not on the baby's birth certificate. The easiest way to do this is to have the other parent sign a consent form in front of a notary. If the other parent refuses to consent, you must give them notice of the intended name change so that they have the opportunity to object. In most states, the other parent must be served personally with the petition or by certified mail if they are not local.

But what if you can't find the other parent? If you haven't been able to locate them by diligent searching, the court usually requires you to publish notice in one or more newspapers and file proof of notice before the judge acts on your petition. Some states also require you to hire an attorney ad litem to represent the absent parent's interest. When the other parent objects to the name change or you haven't been able to locate them, it's advisable to consult an attorney before you file anything with the court.

5. Complete the petition and file it with the court.

Fill out the petition and the consent form as well as any other necessary forms and submit them to the court clerk's office with the required fee. You may also need to submit a certified copy of the baby's birth certificate. Comply with any notice requirement and submit proof of notice. The clerk will let you know whether the judge will hold a hearing on your petition or simply sign the order and return it to you. When the other parent objects to the change or can't be found, a hearing is necessary.

6. Attend the hearing.

Attend the hearing if there is one. Assuming the other parent consents, the hearing will be simple and, when it is over, the judge will sign an order permitting the name change.

Your baby's name is important. When you need to change it, an online service provider can help you complete the documentation specific to your state and file everything with the right court.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.