Changing a Child's Name
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Our daughter is 6 weeks old. I have been ambivalent about her name since we picked it. I remain ambivalent. Its does not feel like a strong enough name and I just don't like it. We of course have told family/friends etc - have social security card and birth certificate...I know its not that hard to change (paperwork and fees) BUT what about telling all the people? We are going to do birth announcments so I think we need to decide before that. My husband LOVES her name but I think would be willing to change it. Oh, and I love what we named our older child (so I know its possible, right?). Oh, and generally everyone who hears the name comments that they like it (if that matters...). Anyone change a name at this date? how did you deal with friends and family? any other advice? glad (a few years down the road) you changed it? I think I am past the hormonal stage at this point so I don't think its that. Thanks
I have a friend who changed her daughter's name when she turned one year old, so it's not too late for you to change your child's name if you feel that strongly about it. you're not the only one
Change it! My name was Amy Elizabeth for my first two days of life. Then, while still in the hospital, my mom found out that our dog chewed the skirt off the brand new couch. She cried all night, decided she hated the name Amy, and without telling my dad, changed my name to Julie Christine. My dad, being the smart man that he is, said, ''No problem,'' when she told him that his little Amy was now Julie. Now I'm 35 and it's a great story to tell at dinner parties. Happily, Julie Christine
I felt exactly like you but didn't change the name and so regret it so I really really encourage you to do it if that's how you feel. Don't worry about what other people think, once you know what feels right, start calling them by that new name - most will assume it's a nickname or the middle name that you now use. In our case we didn't name the child the name we wanted to because some friends just had named their child the same name so we went with our second choice. It really started to bother me by the time our son was 6 months old and I looked into changing his name but by that time he had 2 passports and it would be too much work to change it with his dual citizenship country. I so regret it. Whatever you do, DON'T worry about what anyone else thinks, I can't believe we let that influence us to begin with, that other couple ended up moving away and we never even see them anymore so it's so stupid it influenced such an important decision! anon
I have never felt totally right about my baby's name. She is about to turn 1 and now that I've gotten to know her I think I have a name that is better suited for her. Would it be crazy to change her name? Crazy Mom
I support your doing what feels right. Sometimes we need to get to know our kids before we can really know their names. And your child will readily adjust. I think it would better to change her name than to always feel regret at not having done so. Understanding the need to feel good about one's name
If your sure that the name change is really in response to her emerging personality, and not some chronic restlessness or sleep deprivation on your part, then what the heck! Having changed my own name, I can tell you that there were awkward moments as I announced the change, but I don't regret it. It's nice to have a name that reflects me. name changer
Change the babe's name and move on. Just think about how it will sound after being called through the neighborhood, or when the kid's in school, or as an adult. Go for it...and good luck! anon
By all means, change it. We struggled to come up with a name for our son while I was pregnant, and made lists and went over them. We chose the name Nathaniel, but I remember thinking, ''what if it's not right? How will we know?'' Fortunately, it's a name that we like, and he likes. But I know someone named Leda whose parents had a name for her at birth that didn't fit, so they called a few friends over when she was a few weeks old to brainstorm and come up with a better name. Naming is so difficult and there's no good way of predicting if a name will fit or not, so change it now while it's easier. Lori
No, you're not crazy at all. I'm stuck with a name that never, ever fit me as a person or a personality. I'm used to it now, and so is everyone else which is why I never changed it, but honestly, even my own mother acknowledges that I'm not now nor have I ever been a Heather. I always felt like I was an Erika (another name for Heather), or even a Jessica or Miranda... but no one ever considered changing my name, evven when they got to know who I ''really'' am. I wish they had... Now that you know your child, do change the name, please. S/he can always do something else or change it back later. A not-Heather
I haven't posted anything on the thread before, but I wanted to add for all the parents currently choosing names to really thing about people's perceptions of the names you are considering. Ask around if you aren't sure! If you choose something unusual (for whatever reason - like the sound, family reasons, want to be different, etc), consider the impact on your child. I'm not saying you have to go with a good old classic or a popular name, but honestly, I can tell you that when I hear names that are too unusual or even ''weird'' (sorry, my interpretation), I feel sorry for the child. I'm not writing this to single anyone out and I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, but I'm just trying to be honest.
Some names instantly conjure up a less than positive image and association. Some names make me laugh or want to roll my eyes. Some names are difficult to pronounce or spell. Some names seem like an unnecessary burden on the child. Some names will hold a child back.
A name is a powerful thing. It is one of the first things that we learn about a person. Sometimes it is the only thing! Imagine going through a stack of resumes or deciding between two qualified candidates - a name could tip the balance! Associations that we make when we hear names are instant and even subconscience. We all do it, even if we don't want to.
Spent a little time thinking about the importance of naming your child. Thing about a baby, a student, a lawyer, a mom, a senior with that name. Does it still work? What will people think when you yell that name across the playground or when the child introduces themselves at school or later at work? Choose wisely. Classic names for my kids
We changed the name of the son we adopted from Russia when he was a year old. His given name is unheard in the USA (ourside of Russian communities) and was difficult to pronounce and spell. The nickname of his given name was apparently a strong, trendy name in Russia, but friends pointed out that it sounded like 2-3 other English words - ones that were not positive and even unpleasant/negative. It was clear that we had to pick another name!
I appreciate the lady who posted saying that she is all for culturally-derived names. However, it is worth considering how these names will be received by the mainstream or dominant culture in the country were you live. In Russia, my son's name was a good one. Here in the USA, it probably would have been considered odd/different as best. He may very well have been teased about the name and saddled with something that he would always have to explain, pronounce and spell! We changed our son's name to something that still recognized his Russian heritage and was a known name in English. The name we choose: Alexander. Struggled with the naming dilemma
I have a very unusual/difficult to pronounce name and a last name that 12-year-old boys used to make fun of. However, I am so proud of my name and would never change it. I love having a name that is unique -- that my parents chose specifically for me. Unlike many posters -- I pity those of you with normal names not those with unusual names. Some people look at me oddly when I tell them my name... but I consider it their problem, not mine. As for my last name, I am happy to say that I never even understood the jokes boys made when I was a girl... Which seemed to have been the perfect rebuttal. Raising children does not require universal concensus! It is great to get other opinions... but you are not going to get everyone to agree. CKCCKC
Hi, I was in the exact same situation - I have phsical AND legal custody and there has been no contact for years with the biological father. I did try to do a name change (paid lots of money, add in paper...) It did NOT go through - talk to me before you move ahead. I hope the moderator can give you my information as I can't be public with my name around this issue. annonymous
When my mother changed my name as a five-year-old to my step dad's name, we did so in court. Many years later, I changed my last name, adopting my mother's maiden name. Not that my step- dad wasn't a wonderful father (he certainly was and still is); I just felt that his last name never really fit me. At the time, in my twenties, I was told that the name would become mine through usage. I never went to court, never filed any paperwork. I just began to use my new last name all the time and everywhere. I don't recall it being a problem to have my driver's license changed.
Since you have full legal custody, it wouldn't surprise me if this were the case, but I'd certainly check it out with an attorney or by calling the registrar at the Alameda County Courthouse, because you are dealing with a minor, after all. best of luck with this wise choice
It is very easy to change one's name in California, and you don't need to publish anything in the newspapers or hire a lawyer. It's just a matter of going to Social Security and doing a few other things. Check out the Nolo Press book on California name changes.
p.s. I wish my mom had done the same for me when my father left. I ended up changing my name as an adult, and it was a lot more trouble at that stage in life. Anonymous
We would like to change the name of our child, born about 10 days ago, as in the haze at the hospital we chose a name that now seems wrong!! In contacting the state, etc. this seems to be a bureaucratic nightmare. Has anyone had experience going through this process, esp. how long it might take, whether a lawyer is necessary, etc...? We were told that it might take up to a year, which would be ok, but we might be travelling internationally in the next 6 months and therefore need a passport for the child which requires a birth certificate. Is there any reason to just wait and do the name change at a more convenient time, say in a year?
It is not a big deal to change a baby's name. We went through the same thing 2 years ago....after leaving Alta Bates had a change of heart about her name & it was too late to change the birth certificate. As she was also about a week old we just announced the new name to friends & family & I bought the Nolo Press book about changing a name. I did not use a lawyer...filed court papers myself. The book explains everything...you have to place an ad in a local paper & file papers & ultimately appear in court. We filed papers in Jan. Feb. of 2002 & had a court date in 4/2002. The only drawback is that her birth certificate will always have the original name & an amendment has the new name. I feel badly & hope my daughter won't be too upset with that when she is an adu! lt. Some aquaintances made stupid remarks & I still feel a bit silly about the whole thing but it was not a big deal and not too much of a hassle. A Rose is a Rose
We did something similar in the haze after the birth - we misspelled our son's name (one l too many). We actually went back to the hospital and they just issued another ''confirmation of birth'' (name?) with the right spelling. I guess since it was ''just'' the confirmation and not the actual birth certificate it was relatively easy. Don't know if that applies to changing the name altogether though. good luck! Bea
My wife and I are considering making a minor change to our 2 year old child's name (spelling it slightly differently so people will pronounce it the way we intended it to be pronounced). I went to the courthouse to inquire about it, and found out that we actually have to go to court to do so, as well pay a filing fee of nearly $300.
My question is this: What happens if we keep her name as it is officially, but spell it differently for our own purposes, school registration, etc. Will there be any issues with Social Security, school districts, etc.? We really don't want to spend $300 plus the time it would take to add one letter to her name. anon
My now-21-year-old son changed the spelling of his name when he was 5. He was learning to write his name - Joseph. I told him that his grandfather whom he was named for, spelled his name Josef. He told me he wanted to use that spelling because it is faster to write and because an 'f' is easier to write than a 'p'. He persisted in always writing it Josef, and has spelled his name Josef ever since. We did not 'legally' change it. His birth certificate has Joseph, but his driver's license and passport both have Josef, as do all of his school and medical records. Over the years, there have always been teachers and doctors and etc. putting it down as Joseph, but not because of the difference in his birth certificate name, just because that is the more usual spelling and people assume that's how he spells it. It has never been a problem, other than he usually has to spell it out for people over the phone. Of course now he goes exclusively by 'Joe', which happened in middle school. No matter how diligently parents insist on a name for their child, the middle school friends will win that battle!
I don't have legal advice but my experience having used three versions of my name (Margi, Margee, Margaret) and experience misspellings galore (Margie, Marge, etc) is that the contradictions on paperwork have not caused problems. I had Margee on my SS card, but filing taxes as Margaret did not cause questions, the SS # itself and the Driver's License seem to become the main source of adult identity confirmation so if you clearly establish alot of documents with your preferred spelling before age 16 you might have enough documentation to get the DL with your preferred spelling without the court change on the birth certificate. I also had an error in the last name for own of my kids but for school and medical records I have used the correct full name and hope not to find problems down the road for them. (Or pay for the change when the child is closer to adulthood if it has not worked in practice.) Margi
My mother changed the spelling of my name when I was a baby, but I didn't find out until I saw my birth certificate when I went to get my driver's permit. All she did was add one L to my name to ''make it look prettier,'' but she never did a legal name change.
The biggest problem I had was when I tried to open a bank account at the age of 17 (after I had left home). Somehow it got resolved and I got the bank account. I have had other people question me when I've gone to get a driver's license, but I guess because it is a one-letter change and I tell the story of why my mom changed it, they let me through. All of my legal IDs, passport, credit cards, etc has my new spelling; it's just my birth certificate that doesn't.
My sister also changed the spelling of her name in high school but not legally and as far as I know, has not run into any trouble because of it. I think if it's a minor spelling change, you don't need to go through legal channels. anon
Anyone out there who goes by a different last name that the one on your birth certificate? If so, has it affected your life in any way? At birth, we gave our toddler my last name, but now we want to change his name to both my partner's name and my last name, hyphenated.
Here's the issue: I'm considering getting an official court- ordered name change for our child. I realize that people can go by whatever name they choose, especially if we simply enroll him under the now desired last name in school. But if we are blessed with another child, I don't particularly want my kids to have two different last names, since we will put both last names on that birth certificate. I went to the City of Berkeley vital records website, which says that a birth certificate cannot be amended unless a typographical error was made on the original form. They require a court order otherwise.
My partner feels that if all our children use the same last name, it does not matter what's on the birth certificates, b/c people don't really compare birth certificates with each other - even siblings. I suspect my partner's instinct is correct. It seems to me that the more important thing to do is to change my son's name on his Social Security card (which might not require a court order, per ''Social Security Online'' website), so that he has consistency for employment/tax purposes. Anyone have thoughts on whether we should get a court ordered name change in order to amend our child's birth certificate? Thanks
My mom changed my name when she got married- I was 8. So my early school & med records have the name on my birth cert (last name of my bio father)& everything else has my (step)dad's name. My SS card, which I got as a teenager, even has my 'new' name- not sure how she pulled that off. I managed to get through school, get college loans, driver license, credit cards, a marriage cert, etc with this 'assumed' name. The only time it became an issue was when I applied for a passport. I had to get a letter from my mom & my paternal grandparents that Virginia X, of the birth cert, & Virginia Y, of everything else, were in fact the same person. Good Luck, Virginia
Our daughter has had to submit her birth certificate to play on recreational soccer teams. I don't know if it would make any difference if the name she used was different from the name on her birth certificate, but it seems like it might make things more complicated. Chris
I am one of those people whose last name is different from what it says on my birth certificate. Trust me, this is really no big deal. What happened is, my mother divorced my father when I was about 9 months old. My mother decided to ''change'' my last name to her maiden name. Essentially, all this means is that you put the new name on all other records: Social Security, school, etc. Legally, after using a name for a certain amount of time, you can claim that name as yours (that's my understanding anyway). At any rate, when I got my first California ID (when I was in my teens), all I had to do was indicate on the application form what my current last name was (because it is different from what's on my birth certificate) and that was *it,* no hassle, no problems. Of course, I'd been enrolled in all my schools under this name (my mother's maiden name), so it was already on my school records. So, my point is, this really isn't a big deal, especially since you're starting with her as a baby. I really don't think you need to bother with filing any legal paperwork or anything. Hope this helps! All the best, ~Alesia
It sounds as if your decision about the name has already been made, so perhaps this comment is irrelevant, but our solution for babies' last names has been to alternate. The first child has his last name, the second mine, and so forth. We realized that when all the young hyphenateds marry one other, as surely they will, their last names will grow exponentially. Grandchildren with four last names; greatgrandchildren with eight! Either that, or they make the invidious choice that we refused to: which of their forbears to abandon? It was a geeky solution, but it has posed no problem at all that our children have different last names. And, as my brothers have no child with our last name, had I not done this, it would have meant the end of our not-so-illustrious line. Siobhan
My husband has had his name changed several times over his lifetime. The first time it was changed (he was 7 or 8), they (the county/parish where he was born in Louisiana) crossed out his original name on the birth certificate and wrote in his new name (don't think that was quite legal but hwat the hey). He then changed his name again right before we got married at age 24 and did it through the social security office. It was very easy. It doesn't matter what's on your birth certificate as much as what's on your SS card, apparently. He has a copy of his birth certificate (complete with the crossed line) and he just writes a letter of explanation along with a copy of his SS card. Laurel C.
Some years back I decided to drop my surname and push my middle name up to surname status. I went the court route, and it was a pretty easy do-it-yourself process, though it did cost about $150 or so. I used the certified court order to get a new social security card and driver's license. My birth certificate was not amended. Nolo Press had a good book ''How to Change Your Name'' that gives the pros and cons of changing the name officially. Zoe
Hi, Based on my own experience I would advise you to go ahead and have your child's name amended on his birth certificate. While my situation is different from yours (I'm a naturalized US citizen, born in Europe and adopted by Americans), different names on different records has at times created problems in my adult life. For example, I'm now facing a huge mess (trying to prove who I am) as I collect all my vital records together for the (international) adoption of a second child. Anyway, just a thought. By doing it now you may save your child some future problems. Also, have you checked Oakland vital records? I was also thinking about hyphenating my child's last name (never got around to it) and as I recall, they just require you to fill out a form. Christine
The only time I can imagine the name on his birth certificate making any difference is when he needs a passport. The passport agency is kind of weird about 'usage' name changes and if he needs one before he has a driver's license you may have some trouble getting the passport issued in the correct (newer) name.
But you could always go the court order route if and when needed; you don't have to go and do it by any particular deadline. As I understand it, though, getting a name change court order is not particularly difficult nor terribly expensive, so if not having the right name on his birth cert bothers you or if you ever encounter any problems, go ahead and do it. Nolo Press does a book with all the necessary forms and info. Holly
You are in luck! Our own story is a long one that I won't go into here, but you have an excellent option. If you want to give a child it's father's surname or add the father's name to an existing surname (as in hyphenate), you can do so with a form called an ''Application to Amend a Birth Record: Acknowledgement of Paternity'' (form #VS22). In this case only, the original birth certificate is sealed and a new birth record is prepared. It takes 9 months to be recorded and it costs something like $20 (much less than that court order route). Many people, including the ones at Vital Records, do not know about and/or misunderstand this option. This is *not* the father acknowledging paternity. It is fine if the father is already listed on the birth certificate. If you want more information, feel free to contact me. I actually have all the information and a blank form you can use. Good luck, Melissa
My children have different last names because somehow we filled the form out wrong--I can't remember now the details of how this happened. Instead of hyphenating our last names, we decided to use one last name as a middle name (i.e. John Smith Jones); however, on our second child, the two names (middle and last) were registered under the last name only. So one child has Jones for the last name and the other has Smith Jones. We found out about this ''different'' last name when we got our tax return back and they did not allow us the deduction for the second child, because his last name did not match his social security number. (We sent in the paperwork with his name matching his birth certificate, and it was easily corrected.) So I think the social security name is key. My husband changed his own name at Social security and did not bother with his birth certificate. Jennifer
How do I go about changing my child's middle name?? I know this is a strange question -- there's nothing scandalous about this desire to change it, mostly I just regret not using this particular name in the first place...and now know I won't have another child, so want her to have this middle name. She is a toddler so isn't aware of her full name. Do I start with her birth certificate? Social security? Thanks for your help, Beth
This is what I had to do to change the spelling of my daughters middle name: Contact or go to the place that holds your childs birth certificate. (City that baby was born. In Berkeley that is the City of Berkeley, Vital Records Dept., 2344 SIXTH Street. Get an ''Application to Amend a Record''. There is a fee if baby is over a year old. Maybe it is the same process for changing the name. good Luck
I changed my last name using a guide from Nolo Press. The guide (I forgot the title) was amazingly easy to use. I just followed the steps, one, two, three. Nolo is located in Berkeley, but I believe I used the website. Oh, one requirement is that a notice be published in a local paper. There is a cheap one (~$90?) just two blocks from the courthouse where you have to go to file the papers, assuming you're in Alameda County. Kim
We're in the process of changing our child's middle name as well. It's relatively straightforward, but time consuming and rather expensive. I suggest you purchase a book through NoLo Press called, ''Changing Your Name in California'' (you can order it off their web site). They provide very easy instructions and all of the paperwork you will need. You MUST file for a name change through the courts in order to make the name change legal. Jill
I previously posted an advice about name changing, as we had done so some years back. Again, let me emphasize that in California, changing your last/first/middle name does NOT require any court procedure whatsoever. The only thing you need to do legally in this state is file a Social Security form and notify the DMV. Nothing more, nothing less. So don't waste your time with Nolo Press or put an add in the paper as adviced by previous postings. This is California after all.. From another name changer.
In a recent post, someone emphatically said that ''...in California, changing your last/first/middle name does NOT require any court procedure whatsoever.'' I'm sorry to say that this is NO LONGER THE CASE, at least for adults such as my husband. The laws in California have CHANGED in the past year or two. My husband just did a name change in December of 2001--it now DOES require the paperwork, filing fees, etc. Believe me, we regretted not having gotten around to it sooner! I would recommend Nolo Press, as many others have done, to find out what the current requirements are. Dawn
Somehow both my and my husband's last name are listed on my son's birth certificate as his last name (my memory of filling out those papers at the hospital are muddle). However, we want him to have only one name as a last name and the other as a middle name. So now I am faced with changing his name legally. (I discovered this when our tax return was amended last year because the feds noted that the name we listed for my son--one last name--did not match the social security number)
I have got different advice on how to change his name. The one that sounded most legitimate was to get the book Changing your Name Legally in California by Nolo Press, but that the forms in this book are out of date and I need to go to Martinez to get the new forms (I live in Contra Costa County). Has anyone gone thru this process of a legal name change? Is it easier than it sounds? I almost feel it's not worth it, except he has a different last name than all the rest of the family, and I don't want to have further problems with the system as he gets older.
I sent your message to my husband, who is going through the name change process himself right now. Here's what he said: So, if I understand correctly, at the beginning of the year the forms changed state wide. There is a new Nolo book coming in April which will have the new forms. Since the forms are now uniform, you should be able to get the forms here: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/forms.cgi You should still call the courthouse and ask the questions in the Nolo book. Hope this helps! Dawn