How to Legally Change the Middle Name of a Child

By Laura Payet

How to Legally Change the Middle Name of a Child

By Laura Payet

The process to change your child's middle name varies by state and depends on how old your child is when you want to make the change. If your baby is between 6 months old and 1 year old, you may be able to simply amend their birth certificate. If your child is over 1 year old and the change is more than a simple spelling correction, most states require you to obtain a court order. Note that in most states you must be the child's biological or adoptive parent or their legal guardian to change their name.

Smiling woman holding a laughing infant

Here are the important steps to change your child's middle name. While you can complete this process on your own, you can also seek the assistance of a name change specialist to save yourself some time and headache.

1. Check your state's rules.

First, research your state's rules regarding name changes. Start by checking with your state's office of vital records, either online or by phone, to find out whether you can change your child's birth certificate. For example, new parents in Oregon can make one change to a child's birth certificate anytime before the child's first birthday.

If you cannot simply change the birth certificate, check your state legislature's website for the procedure to petition a court to allow a name change. Most likely, you will have to file a petition for name change, a consent form signed by the child's other parent if necessary, proof of notice, and an order for the judge's signature. Find out what court to file the forms in and the fee for a name change.

2. Get copies of the forms you need.

You may be able to download and print the forms you need from the state's or court's website. Alternatively, find them at the clerk's office of the court where you must file the petition.

3. Obtain consent from the other parent.

If the child's other parent is your spouse and you are seeking the change together, both of you can sign the petition for name change. But if you are not married to the other parent and that parent is alive and has not had their parental rights terminated, you must also have their consent to the name change. The easiest method to show consent is to have the other parent sign the consent form and have it notarized. Depending on your child's age, you may also have to obtain their consent.

If the other parent refuses to give consent or if you do not know where they are, you may want to consult an attorney before proceeding. You have to give the other parent notice of your intent to change the name so they have an opportunity to object. Generally, they must receive a hand-delivered copy of the completed petition for name change, or a copy via certified mail if they live out of state, along with notice of a hearing date. If you do not know where they are, the court usually requires that you publish notice in one or more newspapers and perhaps post a notice in the courthouse. Some states also mandate that you hire an attorney "ad litem" to represent the other parent's interests at a hearing.

4. Complete and file the forms.

Fill out the petition for name change and sign it in front of a notary. Complete any additional forms, including proof of notice if that is required, and file everything together with the clerk's office. When you file the forms, you must also pay the filing fee. The clerk will tell you whether you need to appear before the judge at a hearing or whether the judge will simply sign the order for you. The clerk will schedule a hearing if necessary.

5. Appear at the hearing.

If a hearing is scheduled, you must attend it. The judge decides whether to allow the name change and, if so, signs an order to that effect. You may want to obtain several certified copies of the order to use in changing your child's birth certificate, Social Security card, and any other forms of identification.

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.