How to Change a Child’s Last Name

Strange as it may sound, there do exist a few reasons where you might decide to change your child’s last name. The most common reason is, of course, divorce. If you and your spouse are getting a divorce, and it is decided that the child is going to live with you, i.e. you are getting the child’s custody, you may want to change your child’s last name to your maiden name. Another scenario is where a child was born before marriage. A child born before marriage is said to be born out-of-wedlock. In this case too, you may want to change your child’s last name. Usually, when a child is born out-of-wedlock, the child gets the mother’s surname. However, if the parents marry after the birth of their child, the child’s last name can be changed to the father’s surname.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to change your child’s last name, regardless of the situation you are in. The process is a legal one, however, and certain rules need to be followed, and forms need to be filled. Given below is more information on how to go about changing a child’s last name, in case you need to do so.

Changing a Child’s Last NameObviously, a child cannot change his own surname officially or legally because he is not old enough to do so. Changing a child’s name can be done by a family law attorney. Changing your child’s last name doesn’t cost you a lot of money, but there will be some fees involved, depending which state you live in. Follow the given steps and you will not find changing your child’s last name very difficult.

  1. You will need to petition the court for changing the name of your child. There will be forms to fill, and in most states you can fill out these forms yourself. You will require the legal aid of a lawyer, and you will have to notify the child’s father that you are going to change the last name of the child. After you have filled the forms and shown consent (of the father), the court will decide if the child’s last name should be changed. The court takes into account the best interest of the concerned child before making any decisions.
  2. Usually while getting a divorce, a woman reverts back to using her maiden name. If she has a child, and has won custody of the child, she can file a petition to have the last name of the child changed to her maiden name as well. The courts usually grant the petition, but will also consider the father’s relationship with the child. In this case as well, the father has to be informed that the name of the child is going to be changed, and should be agreeable to the change.
  3. Once you have petitioned the court for a legal name change, you have to wait for the court to decide if it is appropriate for the child’s last name to be changed. Once the court approves – you will get a court order signifying approval – you will have to publicly declare that the child’s last name has been changed. This is usually done by publishing the name change in the newspaper. Taking help and advice from a lawyer will ensure that you do not face any trouble with this step.
  4. Once this step is complete, you will get the final decree from the court confirming and authorizing the name change of your child. This means your child’s last name has been legally changed. You will still, however, need to change the child’s last name on other documents separately.

A Few Points to Remember While the above steps may seem simple, there are a few points to remember when it comes to changing a child’s last name. These include:

  • Forms will have to be filled, and such forms will have to be filled in the presence of a notary.
  • You will need to pay a fee for changing the last name of your child. The fee varies from state to state, and can be as low as $50 or as high as $150.
  • The process can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days for getting approved, so you will have to plan accordingly.
  • Once the court approves the name change, it is up to you to get your child’s name changed on other documents. These include the Social Security card, birth certificate (though some states do not allow you to do this) etc. There are forms that have to be filled for this as well.

Besides divorce, you may want to change a child’s last name if you are adopting the child. The process remains the same for changing the last name of the child, and the required forms will have to be filled.

Remember that changing a child’s last name does not change any obligations of the father. If child support is due, it will continue to be due even after the name of the child has been changed. Also remember, that it is compulsory that the father is informed and agrees to the name change. If the father (or other parent) does not agree, then is it very difficult to change the last name of a child. Also, most courts will not agree to change the first name of a child, unless you can prove a very strong and valid reason for doing so.

You should note that how to change a child’s last name is not the all important question. Keep in mind that while changing the last name of a child is not as difficult as it seems, it should be done only after careful deliberation. Changing child’s last name is not merely a name change; it is the process by which the child gets a new identity, a new name to carry for a lifetime.

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