A legal name change is a process that permits a person to legally change their name. This means that they will be allowed to use their new name on official documents.
The main reason that the legal name change process exists is so that a person may preserve their constitutional right to change their name, while at the same time doing it in a manner that is recognized by the law.
If a person changes their name in a way that is considered illegal or unofficial, they could face serious legal consequences. Avoiding the legal name change process can result in criminal charges, such as fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion.
What are the Common Situations When a Child Name is Changed?
There are several reasons as to why an adult may want to request a legal name change for a child. Some of the most common scenarios in which this occurs is when a child has been adopted, a parent has remarried, or if the parents got divorced.
Another reason that an adult may want to change the name of a child is if the child is a victim of a crime, such as stalking or domestic violence. Changing their name can help to protect their identity and may prevent the criminal offender from finding them again in the future.
One other situation in which a child name change may arise is if the child is being bullied or does not like their name. Their parents and/or guardian can petition the court for a name change on their behalf.
Are the Requirements the Same for Adult and Child Name Changes?
The requirements for changing a name will differ, depending on whether the individual is an adult or a child. The biggest difference between the two is that the court will make its decision using the child’s best interest standard. Basically, the court will examine a number of factors and determine whether the decision to change their name would be in the best interest of the child.
For example, if a parent gets remarried and they want the child to take the step-parent’s last name, the court will consider the impact this may have on the child’s well-being. The court may also look at how their decision might affect the other parent.
Another requirement that differs between the two procedures is that a child must have a parent or guardian file the request on their behalf. An individual must be at least 18 years old to legally change their name.
Additionally, if only one parent is involved in the decision to change the child’s name, they must notify the other parent. This is true regardless of whether or not the other parent is part of the child’s life.
How Do You Legally Change Your Child’s Name?
Depending on the laws of a state, the parent and/or guardian will need to complete an application or petition for a name change and file it with their local probate or family law court. This will require paying a court filing fee.
If only one of the parents is requesting the name change, then they must notify the other parent. They also will need to pay a fee to their local newspaper in order to publish notice of the child’s name change (unless special circumstances apply, e.g., if the child is a victim of a crime).
In cases where only one of the parent’s is aware of the name change, they will need written consent from the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent is deceased, they must attach a death certificate to their application. Most applications will also request that the parent attach a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
A hearing will be held in which the party can explain to the court the reason they are requesting that the child’s name be changed. The court will consider these reasons, what the name is being changed to (e.g., to ensure it is not restricted), and whether the name change is in the child’s best interest.
If the court grants the petition, then the parent will be responsible for notifying the local paper, the relevant government agencies (e.g., post office, the bank, etc.), and any other sources mandated by the state guidelines.
Are There Restrictions for Changing a Child’s Name?
There are certain instances when a name change will not be allowed. One reason is if the parent is changing the child’s name to commit a crime. If the name is being changed for illegal purposes or gain, then they will be restricted from doing so or else face criminal consequences.
Other reasons a parent may be restricted from changing their child’s name is if the new name selected means something racist, is considered hate speech, would incite violence, or includes something that would make it confusing like a symbol (e.g., “!” or “$”).
When is Notice Not Required When Changing Your Child’s Name?
There are three types of situations in which notice may not be required to change a child’s name. The first is if both parents agree to the name change and are both present in court when the decision occurs.
The second is if one of the two parents has lost their parental rights. This refers to the narrow scenario of when that parent’s rights have been legally severed.
The third and final common scenario of when notice may not be required is if the other party is the reason that the custodial parent is requesting the name change in the first place. For instance, if the non-custodial parent sexually assaulted or abused the child.
Where Do I File My Petition for a Name Change?
In most cases, a parent can file a petition for a child’s name change with their local probate or family law court. The laws of a particular state will specify the exact requirements and procedures.
Thus, it is important to review either the state laws, a court’s website, or to call a court clerk if an individual is not sure how to proceed. Alternatively, they can also speak to a lawyer who handles such matters.
In addition, a person may also request the name change during a related legal proceeding, such as an adoption or a child custody hearing.
Do I Need an Attorney for My Child’s Name Change?
Petitioning for a name change can be confusing regardless of whether the party is a child or an adult. This is because the laws and procedures for name changes will vary depending on the state. Also, name changes can become even more complicated when it is for a child since there are additional laws and legal standards to follow.
Therefore, if you have any questions, concerns, or simply need help changing your child’s name, then you should consider contacting a local lawyer for assistance; specifically, the type of lawyer who handles name changes: a family law attorney.
Although it is not entirely necessary, it can be helpful if your lawyer specializes in name change matters. This can make the process go faster and it means they will already be familiar with the proper laws and requirements. It also means that they may be able to predict your chances of having the name change approved.