Wondering how to change your child’s name in Florida? What are the legal roadblocks you might face during the process? Someone’s name is a part of who they are as a person, their ancestral heritage. It’s also a part of their legal identity. Your name is linked to your court records, credit history, and much more. Adults change their names for all sorts of reasons… Maybe they got married or divorced. Perhaps they want their legal name to match their business brand. Sometimes people just don’t like their names, or they want to start fresh with a new identity. When it comes to changing a minor’s name, though, the process can get a bit more complicated. If you’re facing roadblocks in the name-change process for your child, a Miami family law attorney can help you overcome those hurdles.
Parents are the ones who initially decide on what their child’s name is, and there are all sorts of reasons parents may seek to change their child’s name later on. Most of the time, the reason has to do with making life easier for the child—whether it’s because their current name is inconvenient or causes them some sort of anxiety or embarrassment.
Here are the most common reasons a parent may decide to legally change a child’s name.
If a child has the last name of one parent—the mother, for example—and the mother gets married and changes her last name, she may decide to get a legal name change for her child so that their surnames are the same. This makes life easier when it comes to communication with the child’s school, medical services, and many more scenarios.
Similarly to marriage, when a child’s parents get divorced, it’s common for the mother—if she changes her name post-divorce and the child is living with her full-time—to petition for her child’s last name to be changed so that it matches her own.
When a child is adopted, legal name changes are often part of the process. In this situation, the name change follows a different, simpler process than most legal name changes since the modification to the child’s legal name can actually be requested during the adoption hearings.
Parents who are unmarried often go through DNA testing processes to establish paternity and get the ball rolling on family law matters like child custody and child support. If paternity is established after the child is already legally named, some parents choose to change the child’s last name to match the father’s surname. This is another situation where the parents would not need to go through the traditional name-change process since the name change can be requested at the paternity hearing.
Other situations in life may cause a child’s name to cause them some sort of embarrassment or unease. The association of their name with bad publicity, traumatic events, or domestic abuse could cause the child or their parents to seek a legal name change.
Parents in Florida have what is called “parental responsibility”—also known as legal child custody—when it comes to their children. This means both parents typically have parental rights when it comes to making major decisions for their child regarding their education, religion, healthcare, and – yes – their name. If both parents have legal custody of their shared child, both parents need to consent to a legal name change. If one parent is unreachable or objects to the name change, a Florida family court will make the final determination.
While the procedure for a legal name change—even for a child—isn’t necessarily difficult, it can get complicated under certain circumstances. Let’s walk through the steps for changing your child’s name and what you can expect during the legal process.
The parent that lives in the same county as the child can fill out a Petition for Change of Name (Minor Child(ren)) Form 12.982(c) and pay a filing fee with the county court to get the process started. This form should not be used in cases of adoption or paternity matters since a name change can be requested at those court hearings instead.
Florida requires that any legal parent or guardian requesting or consenting to the name change of a minor child be fingerprinted and submit to a background check. This must be done through an avenue approved by Florida law enforcement and the Miami courts.
The background checks must be paid for by the child’s parents or parent.
When one parent is petitioning for the child’s name change, they must either have the consent of the other parent or they must notify the other parent through personal service—or the use of a private process server to deliver legal documents. This process involves a third party “serving” the other parent with legal notice of the name change petition and getting their acknowledgment of delivery on a service form. The parent served must then give their consent in writing. If the other parent can’t be reached through personal service or if they live in a different county, the parent filing the petition can use constructive service. This usually involves posting a notification to a designated public forum like a newspaper. If both parents agree to the name change and they both live in the county that the child lives in, they can file as joint petitioners, and no notification needs to be made.
The final step in the process of changing your child’s name is getting a court date for a final hearing. During this hearing, a judge will review your petition, background check, and information regarding the notification and consent of the other parent before making a final judgment and issuing a court order. The judge may still grant the name change even if only one parent consents, but the determination will be at the court’s discretion. In most cases, they’ll grant the name change as long as the notification was correctly handled. In some situations, the judge may consider the child’s consent and wishes as well. If the judge orders the name change, your child’s birth certificate will then be amended. The Bureau of Vital Statistics will need to be contacted in order to issue an amended birth certificate. Note that you’ll have to pay a filing fee for the amendment of the birth certificate.
While legal representation isn’t required in name change matters, an attorney that’s knowledgeable in Florida family law matters can help ensure your court forms are completed properly and filed correctly so that you don’t run into legal issues with improper filing. A lawyer can also help convince a judge that the name change is in the child’s best interest should the other parent refuse to give consent. Reach out to an experienced Miami family law attorney to ensure your child’s name change goes off without a hitch.