How to Change Your Child’s Name

How to Change Your Child’s Name

There are many reasons why a parent may be looking to change a child’s name. For questions relating to changing a child’s name, you should contact the Garden City divorce law firm of Fass & Greenberg, LLP.   The attorneys at Fass & Greenberg will explain that when parents’ divorce, disagreements can arise over the last name of any children of the marriage. Also, when a parent gets married or remarried, he or she may want to change the last name of any pre-existing children. For example, where a mother has primary custody and remarries, she may want to change the child’s last name to her new married name. Or, where a mother reverts to using her maiden name following a divorce or separation from the child’s father, the mother may want to change her child’s name to her maiden name as well.  It is important to note that a legal name change does not change parental status – if you remarry and want your new spouse to be your child’s legal parent, only an adoption can do that.

In New York, a child who is 17 years old or younger is considered a minor.  Garden City divorce and family law attorneys can help a parent or legal guardian petition the court to change a minor child’s name. The petitioning parent must give a reason for changing the child’s name, so that a judge may assess whether this change is in the best interests of the child. Judges consider several factors in making this decision, such as what the child wants, how the name change will affect the child’s relationship with each parent, how long the child has used the current name, the motives of the parents, and any problems the child may have experienced from the current or new name.  In most matrimonial cases, there is a clause prohibiting a parent form changing a child’s name to any other than the child’s current sur-name, which is usually the last name of the Father.  This issue must be addressed prior to the filing of any petition to change the child’s name.

If a child has two living legal parents or guardians, the law requires that you notify the other, non-petitioning parent or guardian and obtain their consent to the name change. If you are unable to locate your child’s other parent, you must demonstrate that you have made attempts to locate and contact the parent. If you know the other parent’s last address, you must send a notice advising the non-petitioning parent of the proposed name change. If the child’s other parent is under 18 years old, you will need to obtain permission from the non-petitioning parent’s parent. Additionally, many courts require children ages 14 to 17 years old to give consent for their own name change.  Clearly, this request will carry great weight.

A name change request pursuant to the New York Consolidated Laws Article 6 can be made in the County Court or Supreme Court of the county in which you reside.  In order for the Court to change your child’s name, you will need to provide the Court with the following:

  • Name Change Petition: which includes information such as
    • The reason you want to change your child’s name
    • If you or the child were convicted of a crime, information about the crime and time served
    • If you were convicted of bankruptcy, when the judgment was made and the terms
    • Any judgments or liens against you or the child
    • Any lawsuits you or the child are involved in
    • If you pay child or spousal support
    • Information about the other parent or legal guardian
  • Name Change Order
  • Consent Form
    • To be filled out by the non-petitioning parent/guardian and by the minor if 14 or older
  • Proof of Birth
  • Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI): to have a judge assigned to the case
  • Court Fee

If the Judge hearing the petition and supporting documentation finds the name change is in your child’s best interest and approves the request, you will need to publish your child’s new name in the newspaper according to the court’s instructions. Conversely, if a judge believes the name change is not in the child’s best interests, is being made for fraudulent or deceptive purposes, or is offensive or misleading, the judge may deny the request.

To assist with their application, parents can utilize the online Child Name Change Program provided by the NYS Unified Court System. It is a free program that helps a parent complete all of the required paperwork needed to ask the Court to change the name of their child, and provides instructions on how to file the papers and pay the fee.   However, the best recommended practice is to hire Garden City divorce and family law attorneys, Fass & Greenberg, LLP., who can provide you with the insight and expertise on how to properly change your child’s name. If the child’s other parent is refusing to comply or is unable to be located or contacted, an attorney can help you convince a judge that this name change is still in your child’s best interests. If you are a custodial parent looking to change your child’s name, be sure to contact the family law attorneys at Fass & Greenberg to obtain the desired outcome for you and your child.

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