Name Changes for Children

Parents may seek to change their children’s names for a variety of reasons, whether because of a parent’s divorce or marriage, or any other reason. Though name changes sometimes result from a parent’s changing relationship with a child, a name change does not have any effect on a parent’s legal obligations or rights to a child. To obtain a legal name change for a child, the parents or guardians must get a court order approving the change.

Requirements

In Florida, there are several requirements for a parent to change a minor’s name:

  • The person whose name is to be changed must be a minor, aged 17 or younger,
  • The minor must be a resident of Florida and of the county in which the name change action is filed,
  • There must be no ulterior or illegal purpose, and granting the petition must not infringe upon anyone else’s rights,
  • The parent’s or child’s civil rights must not be currently suspended, and
  • If possible, written consent must be provided by all adults with legal rights over the child; otherwise, notice must be given.
Procedure

There are several steps to take in changing a child’s name. First, the child’s parent, legal guardian, or guardian ad litem must file a Petition for Change of Name (Minor Child) with the Superior Court in the county in which the child resides.

If possible, the parent must obtain consent from all other adults with a legal responsibility for the child. Ideally, every parent or guardian will consent to the name change. If both parents consent, and both live in the same county as the child, they can file the Petition together. If one parent lives in a different county, that parent or guardian must sign a Consent for Change of Name.

However, if both parents do not consent, one parent may file on his or her own and serve the other parent with notice of the name change. If the non-consenting parent’s address is known, the notice must be served personally. But if the filing parent does not know where the other parent lives and does not have contact information for the other parent, it is permissible to publish notice in the newspaper.

Unless they are seeking to restore the child’s former name, the filing parent or parents must be fingerprinted. The fingerprinting is for a state and federal criminal history records check, and the final hearing may not be held until the background check is complete.

The next step is the final hearing. If the parents are seeking to restore a previous name, the hearing may be held as soon as the Petition is filed. Otherwise, the hearing may be held as soon as the criminal background check results are received. After the hearing, the judge signs an order officially changing the child’s name. The clerk of court can provide the parents with certified copies of the final order.

After the name is officially changed, the parents must then change the child’s name with all other parties and identification documents. The parents may need to notify or change the name for purposes of the child’s school, driver’s license, Social Security, bank, or passport.

Changing a name can have many complexities, especially if both parents are not in agreement. If you are considering changing your child’s name, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.