To change the name of a child or minor, other than in connection with an adoption or divorce, a petition for name change needs to be filed in Maryland circuit court in the county where the child is a resident.
The court clerk will issue a notice that the petition was filed. This notice must be published in a newspaper unless the court orders otherwise. Any person may object to the name change.
Questions and Answers Regarding Name Change of a Child
Q. I am a sixteen year old stepson and I 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?
A. You do not need to be adopted by your stepfather, but 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.
Q. After my husband and I are divorced and I have returned to my former name, can I change the last name of my children as well?
A. The answer depends in part 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 and Mental Hygiene can change the name if both parents agree. Read the law: MD Code, Health General 4-214
If both parents do not consent to the name change, then you may ask the court to decide. You may need to show 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/ren.
Important Note about Paternity and Name Change– 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 will still have the same obligation for care of the child, pay child support, visit, rights of inheritance, or other legal rights and/or obligations.
For Further Reading
Maryland Law Encyclopedia, 16 Md. L. Ency. Names § 3 (2012).