Name Change Fact Sheet
Generally, probate court has jurisdiction to change names of both adults and minors. If a minor is the ward of juvenile court, that court has jurisdiction to change the child’s name. This usually occurs in a paternity action.
Adult Name Change
Under common law, an adult may change his or her name at will. No legal proceedings are required. The adult merely adopts another name. It must be done in good faith and with no intent to deceive. This is a called an alias. However, to change any public record, such as a driver’s license, a name change must be completed according to law.
The applicant will need to file an ‘Application to Change Name’ in the Probate Court of the county in which he or she has lived for at least one year. A notice of the request of name change must be published in a newspaper of general circulation at least 30 days prior to the hearing. The applicant must have “reasonable and proper cause” for the name change. The court has the authority to inquire as to motives.
Name Change of a Child
A parent of a child seeking a name change must have the consent of the other parent if living. A non-consenting parent has the right to have notice and a hearing on the matter. The court may change the child’s name without parental consent where the name change would be in the child’s best interest.
The applicant will need to file an ‘Application to Change Name of Minor’ in the probate court of the county in which he or she and the minor child have lived for at least one year. A notice of the request of name change must be published in a newspaper of general circulation at least 30 days prior to the hearing.
The probate or juvenile court is required by law to consider the following:
Effect of change on preservation and development of child’s relationship with each parent;
Identification of the child as part of the family unit;
The length of time child has used surname;
The preference of the child if of sufficient maturity to express meaningful preference;
Whether child’s surname is different from the surname of child’s residential parent;
Embarrassment, discomfort and inconvenience that may result when child bears different surname from the residential parent;
Parental failure to maintain contact and support;
And any other factor in child’s best interest.
A child’s surname also can be changed as a result of paternity being established.
This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012.