Name Change for minors and adults
CHANGING A NAME
Introduction. In almost all circumstances to change a name, a request needs to be made to the courts. The name of a child can be changed administratively if there is incorrect or missing information on a birth certificate. To do this, an application can be made to the Department of Human Services. For all other name changes, approval by a judge is needed.
Two Ways. A court can be presented with a request for a name change two different ways. In a paternity proceeding, a parent may ask for the minor child’s name to be changed; the same goes for changing a name as a part of a divorce. The other way is a separate proceeding where the only issue is a request to change the person's name, using an Application to Court for Name Change.
The Legal Requirements. The grounds for name changes are found under Minnesota Statutes §259. This law states that:
- A person, including a minor child, must have lived in the State of Minnesota for at least 6 months before the application for the name change;
- The application must be made in good faith, without intent to defraud or mislead;
- For a minor name change, both parents have to know about the application to change a minor’s name. If you do not know where the other parent is, you will have to prove that you tried to find them or show good reason not to. If the other parent does not want the child’s name to be changed, the court will make sure that the notification and other procedures were done right.
- For an adult name change, there is a criminal background check. A criminal history, especially of one or more felonies, makes it more difficult but not impossible. Further there is consideration for legal ownership of real estate in the former name.
In minor name changes, the court will decide whether or not to accept the change by using the five factors under the “Best Interests Test.” These five factors the court looks at in deciding whether to change the child’s name are the same in both types of court cases.
Parental Approval. The court will usually approve the name change unless the judge decides that it is not in the best interests of the child. The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that changing a child’s last name when one parent opposes it should be considered with “great caution” and only where “the evidence is clear and compelling that the substantial welfare of the child necessitates such a change.”
Best Interest Factors. The best interests of the child is really the biggest factor in changing a child’s last name. The Minnesota Supreme Court has set up factors that the court can use to decide if changing a child’s last name is in the child’s best interests, but note that the court is not limited to these factors. The 5 factors are:
- What the child wants for his or her name;
- If changing the name would affect the child’s relationship with each parent;
- The length of time the child has had the name;
- The degree of community respect associated with the present and the proposed name;
- The difficulties, harassment or embarrassment that the child may go through from the present or proposed name.