How Do I Legally Change My Daughter's Last Name?

By Tom Streissguth

The laws of each state provide for a change of legal name for a minor child. The procedure is basically the same in every state: you must file a petition for name change of minor, provide identification and a reason for the change, and attend a hearing before a judge or magistrate. In most cases, the hearing is a brief formality; however, if one of the parents objects to the name change, the procedure becomes more complicated.


File a Petition for Name Change of Minor, or similarly titled document, with the clerk of court of the county in which your daughter lives. You will have to provide photo identification and a birth certificate, and in some cases, a Social Security number. You will also have to provide the proposed new name, as well as the reason for the change. In general, state laws allow you to sign petitions and legal documents on behalf of your child. If you or the child has been convicted of a felony, most states require that you give relevant information on the circumstances.


Both parents must agree to the name change; the petition has a section that the other parent or legal guardian of the child must sign, giving written consent. If the other parent objects, then you will have to testify in court as to the reason for the change of name. There are additional filing requirements, which vary by state, if you can't locate the other biological parent or legal guardian to give written consent, or if that person is incapacitated. Depending on the state and age of your daughter, she may also have to consent to the name change.

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Barred Reasons

The laws of the states ban a change of name for the purpose of fraud, or to evade a criminal investigation. The laws also may bar frivolous name changes, with the definition of "frivolous" being left up to the hearing judge. You must have an acceptable reason for the change of name -- and you can expect pointed questions if you have filed a name-change petition more than once.


Many county courts schedule open dockets, at which you may appear without an appointed date and time for your name-change hearing. If you daughter is under a certain age, which depends on the state, she will not have to appear. In some courts, you can attend a hearing the same day, as long as your petition and other paperwork is in order. If there is an objection to the name change on the part of the other parent, however, you can expect a scheduled hearing. The judge will hear evidence and testimony from both parties, and may also require your daughter's attendance. If the judge or magistrate grants the petition, the court will issue a signed order to that effect.


If the petition is granted, the clerk will enter the order into the public record. This constitutes a legal change of name; however, to make everything official, you should attach a certified copy of the order to your daughter's birth certificate, held in the bureau of vital records in the city or county where she was born. You should inform the Social Security Administration, and also provide a copy of the order to schools, medical providers, and anyone else with whom your daughter has business.

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Changing a Child's Name in Ohio


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After a divorce, you may want to change your child's name. In Oregon, the procedure for changing a child's name can be found in section 33.420 of the state's statutes. In the 21st century, a growing number of courts have abandoned the historical tradition of allowing a father to insist a child retain his name. A mother may change her child's name if it is in the best interests of the child. However, a divorce in and of itself is not sufficient to establish that a name change is in the best interests of the child.

Steps to Legally Change Your Name

Applying to change your name is a fairly straightforward process, with rules and procedures set down by state law and local courts. In all states, you will need to provide identification and establish that you are a legal resident; you may not change your name to carry out fraud or elude a criminal investigation. In most cases, you can carry out a name change without the use of an attorney.

How to Legally Change the Spelling of Your Name

Legally changing the spelling of your name requires the same steps as changing to a new name; you must file the appropriate forms in the court with jurisdiction over your place of residence. This usually means a county civil court, sometimes also known as a circuit court or district court. For most people with no criminal background, a legal name change is a fairly simple and straightforward process.

Doing the right thing has never been easier.

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