A common question many parents ask during initial consultations with family lawyers is, “How can I change my child’s last name?” A parent may want to change a child’s last name in cases of divorce, re-marriage, or in situations of a non-involved parent. When looking to change a child’s last name, a parent must go through the Circuit Court of the county or city in which the child resides. A parent or guardian of the child can apply for the name change by submitting an Application for Change of Name of Minor to the Circuit Court. This form must be signed under oath in front of a notary.
If both parents are in agreement, then both would sign the application by filling out the joint application portion. One parent would then file the signed and notarized application, along with a copy of the child’s birth certificate and an Order for Change of Name, with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The parent would also pay a small filing fee to the clerk’s office. Depending on the county, the clerk may schedule a hearing in which the judge will sign the order, or the judge may sign the order without a hearing. If a hearing is scheduled then both parents would need to be present.
If only one parent signs the application, the procedure would be slightly different. The parent requesting the name change would return the signed and notarized application to the clerk’s office of the appropriate Circuit Court. The clerk will then assign a court date for a hearing. When only one parent has signed the application, the other parent must be given notice of the hearing by proper service of process. At the hearing, the court would decide whether or not changing the child’s last name is in the child’s best interest. At this hearing the moving party will present evidence justifying the request for the name change, and the non-consenting parent will have an opportunity to present evidence in opposition to the name change.
Whether one or both parents join in the application, pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-217 the court will order the name change unless the change is for a fraudulent purpose, will result in infringement of another person’s rights, or is not in the best interest of the child. It is important to know that legally changing a child’s name does not alter the rights or obligations of the parents. The other party will still have the obligation to pay child support, care for their child, and may still have the right to visitation unless the court deems otherwise. If you are seeking to dissolve the other party’s rights or obligations, please see our post on terminating parental rights.
For assistance with a minor name change, contact us today. The team of experienced family lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. are experienced in representing clients in name change and other child-related issues in family law cases throughout Fairfax, Manassas, Fredericksburg and across Northern Virginia.