You want to change your child’s name, but how do you do it? For Virginia Residents, the process can be relatively straightforward.
In the simplest of situations, it only requires you to file a form with your local court. In other cases, you may have to have a hearing before a court to change the child’s name.
Begin by filing an application to change child’s name in Circuit Court
You will want to begin by obtaining an application to change a child’s name. An application consists of two forms: Change of Name (Minor) form and a Proposed Order for Change of Child’s Name.
You can find the Change of Name (Minor) form here, or you can get one from your clerk’s office. You will need to get the required proposed order from your court clerk, as these orders can vary from county to county.
The application to change a child’s name is relatively straightforward. You simply need to fill out the basic information on the above forms. If you will be filing the form jointly with the child’s other parent, then you will need to have that parent fill out the bottom section of the form. If you will not be filing jointly, the situation changes a bit. This will be covered later.
Each parent should sign the form in the presence of the notary. If you and the other parent are signing jointly, then you both will need to sign in front of a notary. You will want to bring the child’s birth certificate when you submit the form.
The exact procedure will vary among counties. Some counties will require you to go through a hearing, others will not. It may be helpful to call your local circuit court clerk to find out the specific procedure.
Additionally, when changing a changing a minor’s name, Virginia Code requires the change to be published. The person requesting the name change will need to place an ad in a local newspaper one day each week for four consecutive weeks. The cost depends on the paper and the amount of information to be published.
There are several restrictions you should consider when filing:
- You will have to file your child’s name change application in the Circuit Court of the county where your child resides.
- You and your child must have lived in Virginia for at least six months prior to applying to have your child’s name changed.
- The Judge has the final decision on whether or not to approve the name change. They will decide in the best interests of the child.
Note: It is very difficult to change a child’s name against the wishes of the other parent. Even if the other parent has abandoned the child or is currently incarcerated, it is probably not enough to only show that it is in the child’s best interest to have their name changed.
Once you have successfully changed your child’s name, your work is not finished. The act of legally changing a name does not automatically change the child’s name everywhere. The only record automatically updated is the Virginia Department of Health.
Even though the Department of Health will have been notified of the change, you will still need to request a new birth certificate reflecting the change.
Certified Copies of the Name Change Order
The certified name change order is the paper that give you power to actually use a different legal name. Since this order is so important, it is a good idea to get several certified copies in case one is lost, or damaged. Two or three certified copies should be adequate. The only way to get additional copies is to request them from the court clerk.
Though you can request additional copies from the clerk anytime, it is best to request the extra certified copies in advance of the order. Instead of just certifying one copy, the clerk will certify as many as you request. However, most courts charge an additional fee for additional copies, and you will need to pay for them in advance.
Places to Notify of Name Change
Once receiving a certified copy of the Name Change Oder, the legal parent or guardian is responsible for notifying other businesses, agencies, and schools of the changed name. The best way to get such places to update their records is to show them a certified copy of the name change so they know it is official. Some common places to notify include:
- Social Security Administration
- Department of State (Passports)
- Department of Motor Vehicles (ID’s & Licenses)
- Insurance Providers
- Doctors/ Hospitals
- Child Care Providers
What if both parents do not agree to having the child’s name changed?
If a minor has two living parents who do not join in the application for a name change, then the name change process can become more complicated.
In this case, you would begin by filing the same application as above. You would then have to take the application to the court clerk and have the application served with reasonable notice of the application to the child’s other parent.
If the parent objects to changing your child’s name, then a hearing will be held to determine whether the name change is in the best interest of your child.
There are a few situations where the notice requirement can be waived, the most significant of which is regarding instances where notifying the other parent of the child’s name change would threaten the well-being of the child. Under Virginia law, the court may waive the requirement to provide notice when such notice “would present a serious threat to the health and safety of the applicant.”
What happens after the application is filed?
If you filed jointly, and the court required that you attend a hearing, then both parents must be present at the hearing. Regardless of whether the application is filed jointly, a court will most likely order a name change unless it is found that the change in the child’s name is done with fraudulent intent, will infringe another person’s rights, or is not in the best interest of the child.
Additionally, when a minor child’s name is changed, Virginia law requires the change to be published, unless such publication would endanger the child. Such publication involves additional costs which must be paid by the person requesting the change.
How does changing my child’s name affect his rights?
All changing a child’s name does is change their name. It does not provide them with, or limit, any specific rights. They will still be entitled to everything that they would have been before the name change.
Moreover, both parents will still share the same obligation to the child regardless of the child’s name change. There will remain an obligation of support to the child and a right to visitation.
What if a child has no parents?
Then the child’s guardian can apply on their behalf. If a child has no living parent or guardian, then the application for a name change by be made by his “next friend.” A next friend is any adult sufficiently close to the minor, as decided by the court. Examples would include a family doctor or a long time friend of the child’s parents.
The application process to change your child’s name is an easy one, but dealing with bureaucracy or the legal system can be a nightmare. If you need assistance changing your child’s name or fighting an application to change your child’s name, then consider contacting us today for a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.