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- Name Change Law and Procedure
- Frequently Asked Questions
Name Change Law and Procedure
To change the name of a child or minor, other than in connection with an adoption or divorce, file a petition for name change in the Maryland circuit court in the county where the child is a resident, or where a parent, guardian, or custodian of the minor lives. Keep in mind that a name change cannot be requested for a fraudulent or illegal purpose.
Contents of Petition – Court Rules require certain information to be contained in the petition. Most of the information is similar to the information required for an adult name change. A name change for a minor requires some additional information. The petition must include:
- a statement explaining why the name change is in the best interest of the minor;
- the name and address of each parent and any guardian or custodian of the minor; and,
- whether each of those persons consents to the name change.
Additionally, the preference of the minor child is important. If the child is 10 years old or older, they must consent to the name change. If the minor is younger than 10 and they object to the name change, that information must be included in the petition.
For a full list of information that must be contained in the petition, please see Maryland Rule 15-901. If you are the petitioner filing the name change on behalf of a minor, you may want to use the court form found on the Maryland Courts website. Other helpful forms and instructions can be found on the Maryland Judiciary's Department of Family Administration court forms page.
Required Documentation – the following must be attached to the petition for name change:
- a copy of the minor’s birth certificate or other documentation confirming the minor’s current name,
- written consent of each parent, guardian, or custodian of the minor or,
- if you are unable to obtain their consent, an explanation of why the consent is not attached,
- written consent of the minor, if the minor is at least ten years old
If a petition contains confidential information, the individual filing the petition on behalf of the minor may request that the court seal the case record so that confidential information is not accessible. See the article on Shielding or Sealing a Case Record.
Notice to Nonconsenting Parent, Guardian or Custodian – if written consent from each parent, guardian, and custodian is not attached to the petition, the court clerk will issue a notice of the petition for name change. This notice, along with a copy of the petition and the attachments must be served on each parent who does not consent. The notice will state that any objections to the name change must be filed within 30 days of receiving the notice.
If the petition states that a nonconsenting parent, guardian, or custodian is unfamiliar with English, the court clerk will issue the notice in the language identified in the petition or will attach a Multilingual Advisement Form to the notice.
Objections – If someone opposes the request for a name change, they can file an objection to the petition with the court. The individual opposing the name change must file their objection in writing, stating their reasons for the objection. They must send a send a copy of the objection to you and you will have 15 days to respond to the objection by filing a written response with the court.
A parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor who does not file an objection within 30 days of receiving notice of the petition for name change shall be considered to have consented to the name change of the minor.
Court Actions – If the petition contains the written consent of the minor, and the consent of each parent, guardian or custodian is received, the court may rule on the petition without a hearing. If there are questions regarding the information in the petition, or objections to the petition have been filed, the court will hold a hearing. The court may not enter an order on the petition earlier than 30 days from the date that the notice was received by parents, guardians or custodians for whom consent has not been received.
Read the rule: Md. Rule 15-901
Read the law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-2201
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to ask for the court for a name change? Can I just change my child’s name on the birth certificate?
Under some circumstances, you may not need a court order to change your child's name. Whether you can change your child’s name on a birth certificate without a court order will depend on your reasons for the name change. Learn more about changing or correcting a name on a Maryland birth certificate.
I want to change my children’s last name to my last name. Does this change their father’s legal status or his responsibility to my children?
If your children have their father’s last name, a name change for the child will not change the father’s legal status or responsibility. A name change does not affect the rights and/or duties of either parent. As a parent, you still have the same obligation for care of the child, child support, visitation, rights of inheritance, or other legal rights and/or obligations.
After my divorce, I have returned to my former name. Can I change the last name of my children as well?
The answer depends on whether both parents agree to the name change.
If both parents consent to the name change:
- If the child is over one year old but still a minor, you may file a Petition for Name Change.
- If a child is under 12 months, you may not need a court order. The Department of Health can change the name if both parents agree.
Read the law: Md. Code, Health General § 4-214
If both parents do not consent, see the question below about what happens when parents do not agree on changing a child’s name.
What happens when parents do not agree on changing a child’s name?
If both parents do not consent to the name change, then you may ask the court to decide. You need to show the court that the name change is in the child's best interests, and that the circumstances of your case are extreme. Abandonment and serious misconduct disgracing an existing surname are of paramount importance in establishing extreme circumstances.
Courts may consider:
- The length of time the father’s name has been used;
- The strength of the mother-child relationship;
- The need of the child to identify with a new family unit, and
- The strength of the father-child relationship.
- The court will also consider any additional factors that will help the court decide the best interest of the child or children.
Read the case: Dorsey v. Tarpley, 381 Md. 109 (2004)
I want to change my child's name from my ex-husband's last name to my last name. My ex-husband does not agree, but he was convicted of a crime. Is that enough of a reason for a court to allow a name change without his consent?
It will depend on your specific circumstances. Generally, for a conviction to justify a name change without the father's consent, you will have to show the court that your husband's offense was of such a great magnitude that the continued use of the name would result in significant harm or disgrace to your children.
Read the case: West v. Wright, 263 Md. 297 (1971)
Can foster parents petition the court for a name change for a child?
There are no special rules for name changes of a foster child. The same laws apply. However, note that the social services organization may have to ask the court for the name change, not the foster parents.
Read the case: In re Adoption/Guardianship No. 3155, 103 Md. App. 300 (1995)
I am a sixteen years old and want to change my last name from my birth father's name to my stepfather's name. Can I do this with a simple name change or must I be adopted?
You do not need to be adopted by your stepfather. However, your birth father will have the right to object to the name change. Court rules require that a copy of your name change petition be given ("served") to your parents or custodians. Keep in mind that changing your name will not change your birth father's legal obligation toward you. This is different from an adoption. In an adoption, the rights and obligations of the natural parent are terminated.
Read the rule: Md. Rule 15-901
Name Change Video
Name Change for Children from the Maryland Courts