There are many reasons a parent might want to change their child’s last name to match that of the child’s father, most of them personal. Changing a minor’s surname may seem easy enough, but there are legal processes and potential costs involved.
If you want to change your child’s last name in the United States, you will have to apply with your state government. Many states, including California, have several different processes for changing a child’s last name. If you are changing a minor’s name to be compatible with their gender identity, for example, the applicant would have to submit a specific form.
There are other ways to change a minor’s name. In New York, for example, you can change a child’s last name by changing your own name (as a parent, and only if the other parent agrees in writing), via both parents signing a paternity acknowledgment form. The paternity acknowledgment form adds the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate.
You can usually change your child’s last name through your state government website. Be sure to have all necessary documents and identification cards on hand, whether you begin the process online, over the phone, or in person.
In most states, a father will need to establish paternity and have their name listed on the child’s birth certificate before having a say in the naming process.
Usually, both the father and the child’s mother will have to agree to the name change. If there is a dispute or disagreement over this aspect of a child’s life, the parties will have to go to court.
Some common factors that courts may consider when taking on a case related to a name change might include:
A father can change a child’s last name so long as his paternity is officially listed on the child’s birth certificate and as long as the mother also agrees to the new surname.
A filing fee is generally necessary along with the requisite paperwork, with the cost varying from state to state.
A mother can likewise change a child’s surname without having to establish maternity in most cases. For example, if a mother and child are separated, and there is no paper trail then the mother may need to establish maternity, similar to a father’s requirement to establish paternity to legally exercise his parental rights .
Similar to when a father is proceeding with a surname change for their child, mothers also have to pay the filing fee and produce the necessary paperwork.
Things become more complicated when a child’s parents disagree on the suggested name change.
If negotiations between the father and the mother fall apart, court proceedings are common. It may be best to consult and retain a family law attorney.
In these cases, a judge usually decides the child’s name after hearing the evidence and arguments from both sides. While state laws vary, typically the most important factor in determining the outcome of these cases, beyond legally established paternity and maternity in relationship to the child, is the minor’s welfare.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified family lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.