Minnesota's Family Law Blog

Changing Your Child’s Name

Changing Your Child’s Name

In today’s world with marriage rates down, divorce rates up and many of the old customs gone it’s not uncommon to want to change the name of your child. Maybe the baby paternity was in doubt, your remarried or your ex has remarried, there are many reasons why you may want to change your child’s name.

As is often the case we have laws in Minnesota to help decide if this can be done. Minn. Stat. 259.10 gives us some guidance. Generally, you have to be in Minnesota for 6 months and then you can file a motion to change, the problem comes up when the other parent doesn’t want the change. There have been many court cases addressing this and what has come out, is that generally the name change must be in the child’s best interest. Ok, we’ve heard that before, but what does that mean? Again the Minnesota Supreme Court has given us some guidance on this issue. The Court has said the following factors must be looked at these (although they say they are only SOME of the factors):

  • Difficulties, harassment and embarrassment the child may experience with either the current name or proposed name. (You may want to re-think Luke Skywalker…)
  • The Degree of community respect associated with both the present and proposed surname.
  • Length of time the child has had their current name.
  • Effect a change of the last name would have on the relationship with each parent.
  • Child’s preference for each name.

While the list is nice, it’s still a little hard to see what the court really wants. As always, my advice is be reasonable, it’s no secret that the Judge will be. You need to be able to articulate your request for the change and really give the Judge a good reason why the name should be changed. If you have a good reason then, get a good Minnesota Divorce Lawyer and proceed with a motion to change the name!

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.

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Comments 17
  1. Hi, about 2 years ago I got full custody of my daughter she’s 10 and her mom basically neglected her to the point my daughter wouldn’t speak in class and would use cards or sign language to communicate. After about 6 mins of therapy and just showing her love she is a completely different young woman who now talks in school and socialize, she recently asked if she can change her last name to mine I asked why and she said cause she wants to be part of the family and doesn’t want her moms last name anymore, I reached out to her mom and she seems to not be on board. She dpsent attend conferences, therapy when she had it, doctors appointments literally nothing. A lawyer told me she has to sign off on the paperwork but how can she prevent this when she neglects her so much? Should I proceed and file it? Or is her mom who is barely involved ultimately have the final say? She never showed up to any court dates and I’m betting she won’t show for her name change either. What should I do? Thanks!

  2. I have debating a name change for
    quite a while. I have a 13 year old
    and an 8 year old, the oldest has
    my last name but has two middle names
    one being his dad’s and my youngest
    has their dad’s last name. Their
    dad is not involved at all and hasn’t
    been for years, in the beginning he
    was in an out for a while. That aside
    he also has mental health and addiction
    issues, my boys have brought up numerous
    times they want to change their names.
    Of course that’s what I want as well but
    my thoughts and feelings on this don’t
    matter, i just want my kids happy and
    truly believe this is what’s best.
    What all will the judge look at and consider?
    Also can I refile if we don’t get the
    change granted?

  3. I was granted a name change for my daughter when she was a year and a half, to change her last name from her biological father’s last name to mine, even though he came to court to contest the change. That was the last contact they had, my daughter is now 16. I have married and have my husband’s last name, so do my two youngest children. She wants to have her last name changed to ours. I’m wondering if it would be easier to have my husband adopt my daughter, if possible, instead of trying to track down her biological father only to have him contest this change once again. He did sign a ROP. No other custody has been established.

    1. Great question, short answer is that if the Bio father doesn’t approve the adoption, you are in for a long fight as you’ll first have to terminate the parental rights then do the adoption which is a LOT more work than a name change.

  4. Hello, I’m looking to change my young dauther’s name from my maiden name to my married name. She already consider’s herself to have the same name as the rest of the family. Her biological father didn’t sign the birth Certificate, has never met her,I don’t have contact with him at all and I have no idea where he lives. He has no proven paternity or parenting rights. I went to the courthouse with my paperwork and her birth certificate and they told me that I have to notify him to proceed to a hearing with the judge. I’m not able to nor do I want to notify him. Please help!

  5. Timely article , my colleague recently used https://goo.gl/y1Rpii to arrange pdf – It’s quite uncomplicated to use and it’s exceptional .

  6. My son is 16 yrs old. He hasn’t seen his biological father, my ex husband, in 6 yrs. My ex is violent & abusive. He has no legal right to know my son’s or my physical address. I was able to obtain a passport for my son without notifying his father. I remarried several years ago & my new husband is my son’s “dad”. He has been using his step dad’s name since 2011, but I’ve never legally changed it because I fear mine & my son’s safety if his father is informed. Now that he’s 16, I believe he can change his name without notifying his father. Is this true?

    1. Interesting question. If the child was born out of wedlock AND no Recognition of Parentage (ROP) was signed then there really isn’t a father in the legal sense. However, if a ROP was signed when the child was born then the Court will probably require that you notify him. Unfortunately, the fact that the father is not actively seeing the boy or involved in his life is not the main issue, it’s does he have a legal right to weigh in on the name change issue.

      Best of Luck.
      -Jason Kohlmeyer

  7. I have a 15 year old daughter. My daughter has her father’s last name. We were never married. I will be getting married this summer, and my future husband has mentioned adopting my daughter. I know her father would not sign papers necessary for that. I have sole physical and legal custody of her. I was wondering if I’d be able to legally change her last name to my married name without an adoption?

    1. Jackie,

      Excellent question!! Truly one that has not been asked on my blog before and I’m happy to give you an answer. Under Minn. Stat. 259.10 you need to notify the other party and if he objects it might be tricky.

      Good luck.

  8. My son is 14 months old and when he was born, we gave him his father’s last name. Unfortunately his father has chosen to use drugs and has not supported him at all in 7 months, rarely seeing him in the past 3 months. I would like to change my son’s last name to mine, but his father would never consent to it so I need to know if I can file to change it without his father’s consent? We are expecting another child in less than 2 months and I would like both boys to have the same last name, preferably mine.

    1. Couple quick questions before I can answer:
      – You say father but were you married when the child was born?
      – Did he sign the recognition of parentage?
      – Is there a court order saying he’s the father?

      If the answer to any of these is “No” then you file simple name change, pay the fee and you’re done. However, if any of these is a “yes” then…you need to file a motion to change his name, its a harder and you need affidavits and a motion, but it can be certainly.

  9. My sister got pregnant and she didn’t know who the dad was, she named her daughter with who she thought was the fathers name, 3 years later she finally got the court ordered paternity test and he is not the father, what can she do?

    1. Thanks for the question. I’m not exactly sure what you mean though? If you mean what can be done about the childs name? Easy, she can fill out a name change form at the courthouse, pay the fee, follow the instructions and there you go, pretty easy to do and you may not need a lawyer. Good luck!

  10. Hello. I have a question on changing my son’s last name. My son is 2 years old and his father hasnt been in his life for 4 months now and there is no sign that he will be contacting us. He is reciently married and doesnt consider my son in his new family. He is still paying child support but doesnt want to see him. Is there anything I can do to change his last name with out his consent? He was abbusive to me and his mother told me that he never once took care of him when she stayed with him for 6 months after I left. She took care of him in that time. He also smokes Marijuana all day even at work and has done it infront of my son. I have told CPS about it but they didnt take it any further. I don’t feel safe having my son in his care. Is there anything I can do?

  11. How does the “non applicant” parent fight this in MN? There is no vallid reason other then control and hate for my husband that my step daughters mom to want to change my step daughters name to her new husbands name. She has been married less then a year, we have been married almost 6 years we have 50% legal custody and we have weekend visits, one day a week and 2 weeks a summer and alternating holidays. There is no criminal record or “reason that would cause her harm” to keep her fathers name. l dont know what we can do to fight this notice to appear and how to approach this new battle – it’s always something.

    1. Name changes can be a bit tricky as it’s not as clear cut as the lawyers would like. The law covers what the Judge looks at, but at the end of the day it’s a best interest standard and a gut feeling of what the Judge will do. If you are fighting a name change, you need to put in a response to the motion the father filed and lay out your reasons to fight it. You’ll need to appear in court and be ready.

      This is an issue that’s not terribly expensive, I would say about 2-4 hours of work and you may want to consider hiring an attorney for this. The reason why is that the Judge will want some caselaw to rely on, to look at and if you just get up and object, it might not have the same result. Good luck!

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