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How to Change Baby's Legal Name

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You spent months coming up with what you thought was the perfect name for your baby. So what happens if you realize the name you selected is just not right for this new little person? Find out what you need to know to change your baby's legal name.

birth certificateBaby name changes are not uncommon, and there are a variety of reasons for them:

·     Naming your daughter after her great-grandmother Edith was a sentimental mistake

·     No one can pronounce the clever moniker, Kayleighzen, you invented

·     You’ve had a change in marital/parental status

·     You’ve determined that the name has become too popular

·     The hospital made an error on the birth certificate

·     Your child just doesn’t look like a Lucca or Augustus or Jedediah

Whatever the reason for changing your baby’s name, these tips will help get you started:

Your Baby’s Official Name

The name entered on your baby’s birth certificate is her legal name – the name she will use on documents such as her tax forms, driver’s license, passport, insurance policies and loans.

Many parents opt to “change” their child’s name by common usage. For example, Emily Rachel is introduced to family, playmates and teachers as Rachel or Rae. While everyone may come to know her as Rachel, she’ll still be required to use her official name, “Emily Rachel,” on all legal documents. Common usage is appropriate when using a part of your child’s given name as in Emily Rachel’s case or when using an abbreviation of it – Liz for Elizabeth or Bill for William. But common usage is not sufficient when you’re calling your child by an altogether different name. Doing so will place your child in a neverending struggle to re-identify himself every time he crosses paths with a legal document. 
The same holds true if your baby’s name is misspelled on the birth certificate. Excited, exhausted new parents may miss typos on the certificate before it is filed as a permanent record. If your son’s certificate reads “Steven” when it should read “Stephen,” he will be stuck using the incorrect spelling unless formal steps are taken to correct it.

Making It Official

The process for changing a name differs from state-to-state. Some states require nothing more than a court order, some states have time limits. Many states require sufficient documentation before a name can be changed. Some states require a public legal notice in the newspaper of the pending name change while other states do not.

To change your child’s birth certificate – because of an error on the document or to change the name completely – consider first contacting an attorney. Your attorney can do the legwork and provide you with the appropriate paperwork.

Hiring a lawyer, however, is not required. In fact, you can save money by eliminating attorney fees. If you opt to handle the name change yourself, consult your county court to obtain clear-cut direction on how to proceed. In some states, free forms can be downloaded from the Internet; in other states, forms must be purchased. Most states require a petition for a name change, public notice and court authorization. To be legal, all paperwork must be signed in the presence of a notary public. You can locate a notary in your local phone book or online. It’s a good idea to keep extra copies of each form for yourself.

Social Security

Once the name change is legal, it should be reported to the Social Security Administration. Contact your local Social Security office or download the necessary paperwork on your computer at Social Security Online. Some states require the paperwork to be submitted in person.

The Birth Certificate

Some states require the above petitions and authorization, while other states allow you to change your baby’s name within the first six months to a year without a court order. Contact your local health department to inquire about the rules where you live. In some cases, the original birth certificate is amended, and sometimes a new certificate is issued.

The wrong name doesn’t have to be a life sentence. If your baby’s name was a mistake, you can fix the problem.

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