How To Change A Minor Child's Last Name

Changing the name of a minor child, unless during adoption proceedings, requires a court order; the court will consider the child's best interests.

There are many reasons why someone might want a name change, but the reasons usually center on simply wanting a different name, marriage, divorce, and adoption.Except for women going through marriage or divorce, name changes require court orders.If you wish to change the name of your minor child, you will need to go through the court system to do so.Since presumably your child is not getting married and you are happy with the first name you picked out, if you are looking into changing your child's name it is most likely due to adoption, or to your divorce.

If you are adopting a child, the adoption process includes a chance- much as marriage does- to change your child's name.Courts have sometimes prevented adoptive parents from changing the first names of adopted children who are past infancy, but if you adopt a child of any age you will be able to give that child your own last name.This holds true for stepparent adoptions as well; if you are adopting your stepchild, you and your spouse can change the child's name.

It is possible, however, to change a child's name without the process of adoption through petitioning the court for a name change by filing certain paperwork.How this works will vary from state to state, and while in the simplest cases you may be able to fill out the forms yourself, you will likely need to consult a lawyer or a legal aid society.You will also need to demonstrate that you have notified (or, if he is long gone, attempted to notify) the child's natural father of your desire to change the child's name.In some states, the natural father's consent is required; in others, it is not.The court will weigh whether or not the name change is in the child's best interests and will accept or deny the petition accordingly.


Through court order, a name change is possible whether or not there has been a remarriage.In divorce, a woman can request to return to her maiden name as part of the proceedings.If she wishes to change her children's name to her maiden name as well, she can make a separate petition to the courts.The factors that the court will consider in deciding whether or not to grant such a petition vary from state to state, but generally involve considering the impact such a change will have on the child and what the other parent's relationship with the child is like.

Be aware that changing the last name of a minor child does not change the identity or obligations of the child's father.Changing a child's last name to match a stepfather's does not absolve the natural father from paying child support, nor will it obligate the stepfather to pay child support should his marriage to the mother end in divorce.By contrast, legal stepparent adoption does change the legal identity of the father; the stepfather becomes the legal father, and will be obligated to pay child support if the marriage dissolves.Be aware as well that if your child is an adolescent, the courts will likely require the child's written consent to any proposed name change.

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