A child’s name is usually decided at the time of birth. That name will be included in the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of the child’s birth. If both parties decide to change the child’s name, there is a form the parties can sign to change the child’s name.
Aside from having the other party’s permission, one parent cannot unilaterally change the child’s given name at birth, even if the father did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. There is a process that needs to happen, such as filing a motion for a name change and giving the other party notice of your desire to do so.
The most common scenario that occurs is that the mother’s last name was given to the child at birth and the father wants the child to have his last name instead. In these instances, the motion is more likely to be granted in the early years of a child’s life. The older a child gets, the more a Judge will likely find that the child has identified with his or her given last name and will be reluctant to change it. In some instances, a Judge will recommend that the child’s last name be hyphenated as a settlement offer.
Once a Judge approves the child’s name change, it is important to follow up on that Order and know what steps you need to take to ensure the name change gets processed. An affidavit must be prepared and notarized and sent along with a certified copy of the Order and a check for the processing fee. The process can take a few weeks to a few months. Once you receive a new copy of the child’s birth certificate, you must submit it to the appropriate offices, such as the social security administration, for proper processing.