What If I Want to Change My Baby's Name?
If you’re starting to regret the name you chose for your newborn, you can definitely change it. In many cases, the name change procedure is extremely straightforward. But as long as both parents agree to the change, it’s completely doable.
There could be any number of reasons why a couple would decide to change their baby’s legal name. Maybe the parents did not realize how impossible it would be to pronounce. Perhaps an unsavory nickname would be way too tempting for other kids to tease with, but that wasn’t obvious at first. Some moms and dads rush to choose a name at the hospital and later realize another choice is a better fit. Whatever the reason, names can be legally changed.
More: Should You Change Your Baby's Name After Adoption?
Changing a baby’s name is a bit different than a name change at any other age because the parents make this decision for their child. The good news is that changing a baby’s name during the first six months won’t have a psychological effect on him. At this age, and perhaps even throughout the first year, the baby has yet to attach his given name to his identity. This is partly developmental and partly because parents use so many pet names like “baby” and “sweetie” anyway.
How to Legally Change a Baby’s Name
The exact process to change a baby’s name differs from county to county. Call your local health department for specific requirements. Make sure you contact the health department in the county where your baby was born.
According to BabyNames.com, “Unlike many other countries, there are few state-established laws on what parents can or cannot name their children in the United States. Legal scholars have noted that this is because of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which endow broad rights when it comes to free speech and due process.
Most U.S. states will allow adults to change their own names—first, middle, and/or last—as long as it isn’t for the purpose of defrauding others by evading financial obligations or criminal histories. Individual states vary, however, on the requirements for the name-change process so we at BabyNames.com have compiled this guide to each state’s rules”
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If you’re lucky, you won’t need a court order to change your baby’s name. Many states allow for a name change within the first six to twelve months without needing one. That way no one ends up stuck with the legal name “Baby” because their parents hadn’t settled on a name before leaving the hospital.
If this is the case, take the birth certificate to the office of vital records (typically part of the health department) in the county where the baby was born. They will guide you through the process, which involves some paperwork.
Changing Baby’s Name When You Need a Court Order
Some counties require a court order to change a baby’s legal name. In some cases, you might even need to post a public notice of the change. In all cases, parental consent from both parents is required. In some counties, there are consent forms while in others both parents need to be present in front of the judge.
In most cases, the process will be something like this:
- Check that both parents consent
- Contact the court clerk’s office to find out whether or not you need an attorney
- Obtain the forms you need. You will need a Petition to Change a Minor’s Name form and you may need a consent form or a notice form.
- Bring all required forms and payment back to the court clerk
- Find out if you need a hearing from the clerk. If you don’t, you will receive confirmation in the mail of the name change. If you do, that will be your next step.
- Inform the Social Security Office of the name change and receive a new Social Security Card.
If you don’t want to go through the process of making a legal change, you can still nickname your child anything you want. Just be aware that it may get annoying for them to have to explain to the teacher on the first day of school each year.
Looking for baby name inspiration? Check out the Top Baby Name Trends of 2019.
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Elisa is a well-known parenting writer. She is an expert on child behavior and certified in Positive Discipline.