How to Change Your Child’s Last Name

Family Law - August 10, 2022
Mother kissing young daughter as they lay on bed

You might want to change your child’s last name for a number of reasons. For example, you or your spouse may have kids from a previous marriage, and you’d like them to have the new spouse’s last name. Or maybe your child’s biological parents did not raise them, and you want to change the last name to your own. Whatever the reason, this article will walk you through the process of changing your child’s last name, though please note that you may have to amend it to conform with your own state’s rules.

Step 1: Fill out court forms

Go to the website of your state’s superior court. Typically, you’ll need to download and fill out these forms:

  • Petition for Change of Name
  • Attachment to Petition for Change of Name – you need one of these attachments for each person whose name you want to change. Be sure to sign each attachment.
  • Order to Show Cause for Change of Name
  • Decree Changing Name
  • Civil Case Cover Sheet

Step 2: Make copies of the required documents

Make at least 4 copies of all of your forms.

  • One set of copies is for the court.
  • The second set is for your own records.
  • The third set is for your child’s other parent.
  • The fourth set is for the local newspaper that will publish your request for change of name.

Most states require that you publish your request, and your county court will have a list of the approved local newspapers.

Step 3: File the forms with the court clerk

Go to the superior court in the county where your child lives. If there are different locations, go to the closest court where civil cases are filed. Once there:

  • Give the court clerk all four sets of documents you made in step 2. The clerk will stamp all the forms, keep the original set of documents, and return the other copies to you.
  • When the clerk files the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name, they will write your court date on it. This is when the judge will make a decision on your request.
  • You will need to publish your request in one of those approved local newspapers before that court date.

Step 4: Serve the other parent of your child

You need to serve a set of documents to your child’s other parent. Do this via a professional server, who:

  • Must deliver the paperwork in person.
  • After doing so, the server must sign a form affirming the papers have been delivered.
  • You need to then file this form with the court.
  • If your child’s other parent is out of state, your server can usually send the paperwork via certified mail, which ensures that a receipt of the mailed paperwork is returned. Make sure this is all done within the timeline set by the court.

Step 5: Attend the hearing

If you are the parent asking for the name change, you need to show up at the hearing. It is possible the judge will order the change of name without a hearing, if:

  • You served your child’s other parent with the change of name request, and the other parent did not object to your request in writing.
  • You published the request in a newspaper, as required.

Call the clerk’s office before the hearing date to make sure you have to attend. If you do:

  • Go to the front of the court when you hear the judge call your name and case number.
  • The judge will ask you to say your name. You will be asked to swear to tell the truth.
  • The judge may ask why you want to change your child’s name and confirm that the name change request was published in an approved local newspaper, and served on the other parent, as required.
  • If the other parent is present and doesn’t agree to the name change, the judge will ask them why.
  • The judge will most likely make the decision right there, and then. If you are missing proof of service to the other parent, or proof of newspaper publication, the judge may ask you to come back when that’s done.
  • If the other parent doesn’t show, but you have served them properly, the judge will likely decide the case.
  • If the judge grants the name change, they will sign the decree you made copies of in Step 2.
  • Take the signed decree to the court clerk, who will file it. Ask the clerk for as many certified copies of the decree as you will need for the different agencies that have issued your child’s ID, such as:
    • The Social Security Office near you to change your child’s Social Security card and records.
    • The DMV to change their driver’s license or ID.
    • The Office of Vital Records to change their birth certificate.
    • A U.S. Passport office to change their passport.


Frequently asked questions

Can I change my child’s surname without the father’s permission?

If the parental rights of one parent have been legally terminated, the other parent may change the child’s surname without permission. If the mother has sole physical custody, and paternal rights have not been established, the mother may change the child’s last name without permission. Otherwise, a judge can grant the name change without permission. If you’re wondering can I change my child’s last name on my own?—the answer is no, unless you meet the above criteria.

How do you change your child’s surname legally?

You get a decree from your state’s Superior Court, though the specific steps to take may vary from state to state. If you want information about changing your name back after divorce, what is needed to change your name, can you change your last name legally without getting married, or do you have to change your name after marriage?—see a lawyer who is well-versed in family law.

How do I remove parental responsibility from an absent father?

You will have to file a petition to terminate his parental rights, and in most cases, a citation to obtain a hearing date. See an experienced family lawyer before doing so.

Can I change my child’s surname on the birth certificate?

Yes, if you have a signed decree from your state’s Superior Court that allows the change. If you are wondering can I change my kid’s last name on other ID documents, again, the answer is yes once you’ve obtained that signed decree.

Can a 16-year-old change their last name?

No. This can happen when a child turns 18. If you want to know can you change a child’s last name?—the answer is yes, until they reach 18 years of age.

What is the youngest age you can change your name?

18 years of age.


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