Can a minor change their last name? (Answers on Avvo)
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
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That’s what we’ve done here... A mother from Florence, Alabama, asks "Can my 15-year-old change his last name to his stepdad's?"
"My son has not seen his real dad since he was 3. He had no visitation rights and had to see him in a court-ordered visitation center which he never did. I did allow him to see my son a few times when he was a toddler at his mom's house supervised by his parents (my son's grandparents) then He moved to Texas with some girl he met online when my son was 3. He called on Christmas for the first year but now my son hasn't heard from him in over 10 years. My son is now 15. I have been in a relationship with my current husband for 6 years and he has raised my son as his own. We recently got married. His real dad is MIA and my son wants to change his last name to his step dads name, how can I go about doing so if I don't know where his bio dad is?"
Name Change or Adoption?
First, I’m sorry to hear that your son has missed out on a better relationship with his biological father. On the other hand, what a blessing it is that your husband has stepped in and stepped up for your son, for you, and for your family!
There are two ways to change a child’s name. You can pursue a ‘simple’ name change OR you can pursue a full-blown adoption.
With a simple name change, the biological father will retain such rights he may have at present, even if they are limited, as well as the right to petition a court of competent jurisdiction to increase his visitation or legal rights … or even modify his physical custody of your child!
If your current husband pursues an adoption, the successful completion of that process will not only have the effect of changing your son’s name but also establishing your husband as the Father of your Child, in every sense but biologically.
Adoption sounds like the opportunity to recognize and formalize your son’s and husband’s long-standing and loving relationship, which sounds like something they both deserve in addition to getting your son’s name changed.
Regarding JUST the name change, I’m looking at § 12-13-1(b)(11), Ala. Code 1975, and here’s what I’m seeing.
(b) The probate court shall have original and general jurisdiction over the following matters:
(11) The change of the name of any minor residing in their county, upon the filing of a declaration in writing, signed by the parent or legal guardian of the minor, stating the name by which the minor is known and the name to which it is to be changed, along with the consent from all persons who have natural parental or legal rights of the minor. Consent of the minor is required if the minor is 14 or more years of age. This subdivision does not apply to a minor who is involved in a domestic relations matter that is pending in the circuit court or to a minor whose name is ordered by a court to be changed pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act.
Id., emphasis added.
It looks like the name change process would require the consent of your son’s biological father.
As you mentioned, you don’t even know where the biological father is, so you wouldn’t be able to get that consent. However, if you pursue the adoption process ( or a related ‘termination of parental rights’ process) you can serve the biological father “by publication” and the law will deem that he had notice of the proceeding. At that point, the biological father can either answer your adoption petition or be deemed to have waived any objection to the process.
Every situation is different, and I can’t give you legal advice without sitting down with you and your family to go through your unique circumstances, but it sounds like you, your son, and your husband have a great opportunity to do so much more than merely change your son’s name!
I do hope you make it a priority to consult and retain an experienced adoption lawyer that can give you the guidance and support you need. Thank you for your commitment to your family and good luck taking the next steps and getting this process going
If you would like to learn more about how you, as a committed parent or caring relative, can stand up for yourself and be more effective in your child custody, divorce, or adoption case, contact an experienced child custody lawyer at Foxtrot Family Law by clicking “book appointment online” on the menu or top right of your screen to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices.
This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation.
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