child name change in Texas

Child name changes in Texas are governed by Chapter 45 of the Texas Family Code.  Requests to change the name can be filed by the parent, someone named as the managing conservator, or by a guardian appointed for the child in the county in which the child resides.  Any request to change the legal name for a child must include, among other things (see Section 45.002):

  • where the child resides (to establish that it is filed in the right county);
  • the child’s present name;
  • the requested name; and
  • the reason for the child name change.

If the child is over ten years old, the request must contain the child’s written consent to a change of their name.

The Family Code does not specify what sufficient reason are for the legal name change of a child.  As with other cases involving children, the court ultimately decides what it believes is in the best interest of the child and rules accordingly.

Section 45.003 lists parties who are entitled to notice via a “citation”.  This means that these are the parties who have to be served with papers requesting a child name change.  This is a lawsuit like any other lawsuit and requires that all interested parties, listed below, be notified of the proceedings:

  • a parent of the child whose parental rights have not been terminated;
  • any managing conservator of the child; and
  • any guardian of the child.

Some common scenarios which arise in a legal name change for children are as follows:

  • Mother wants to change the name of the child to the name of her new husband.  Ex-husband does not agree.  First of all mother must serve ex-husband with papers requesting the name change.  If ex-husband does not file paperwork letting the court know that he disagrees with the name change, after being served, then mother may get her wish.  However, if ex-husband files a response to the lawsuit, mother must set the case for trial and prove that it is in the best interest of the child to change their name.  This will be tough to prove in most instances.
  • Mother wants to change name of the child to her last name or her husband’s last name.  She was never married to the father of the child and has no idea where he is.  Father has not had contact with the child in years.  Mother must still serve the father with notice of the lawsuit.  For every child out there there is a biological father, and they must get notice.  If you absolutely cannot find the father, there are alternative ways to serve them, but you still must serve them.

If the biological father agrees to the name change, in most instances you will not have a problem.  The above scenarios are for situations where the father does not agree.

Another way that a person can change the name of a child is through an adoption where their parental rights are terminated.  When rights are terminated, there is no biological parent remaining in that position so that when a new parent steps in (through the adoption) the child can assume their name.

Finally, in a situation where a father is establishing his parental rights through a paternity action, the courts will typically give the child the last name of the father or a hyphenated version of the mother and father’s last name with the father’s being last.

I hope that I have not confused you more than I have helped.  As always, comment if you have any general questions.  Thank you for reading.

69 Responses to child name change in Texas

  1. Valerie December 17, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    I have a situation. My kids’ dad is in prison for a violent crime against me and was sentanced to 30 years, having now served 2. 2 of my kids have my name, my oldest has his. In your opinion (i will not hold you accountable to anything should it work out differently, of course) what do you think the likely ruling would be? Also, how would he be served in prison?

  2. Valerie December 17, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    i want to have hers changed to mine, by the way

  3. Chris Schmiedeke December 17, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    It is tough to say what a judge would do. In light of the violent circumstances I would think a judge would be more inclined to grant the change to help in putting the past behind you. You would file the request for name change and ask the constables office to serve it. They would most likely forward to Sheriff’s office where he is in prison and they would serve him there.

    Get an attorney to assist you. Good luck.

  4. Valerie December 17, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Thank you for the speedy reply!

  5. katherine December 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    I have to change my daughters name the “supposive” father got a court order to take his name of birth certificate and all other papers and i have to do this but i don’t have any idea where or how to start. can someone help me?

  6. Victoria Garcia December 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Just to throw another scenario out there – four years ago, I had sufficient grounds to have my ex-husband’s parental rights (to our two children) involuntarily terminated. My attorney suggested we contact him and see if he would voluntarily relinquish his parental rights, which he ultimately did. I did not seek to have my (new) husband (then my fiance) adopt my children, nor the court question the issue. I not only changed my children’s last name to my maiden name, but also added middle names to the mix. As it happens, my (new) husband and I share the same last name, so we now all have the same last name. While he does not legally have parental rights to my children, they feel like his and he feels like theirs and they’ve got that emotional bond, which is what matters most to us. We were prepared to go the adoption route, if the court made an issue of it, but it didn’t turn out that way.

  7. Chris Schmiedeke December 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Katherine, I do not know what you are asking.

  8. Tasha Wilson January 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I have a situation similar to Victoria’s. I am re-married and my daughters biodad was violent and removed from the picture. His name is not on the birth certificate and he has not filed at all with the courts to be put on it.

    Chris, how complicated is the situation if there’s no father’s name on the birth certificate and I want to change my child’s last name from my maiden name to married? Any input would be appreciated!

  9. Chris Schmiedeke January 14, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    You will either have to have approval of the bio-dad or you will have to file a lawsuit to change the name, serve bio dad and give him the opportunity to participate in the lawsuit. If he chooses not to participate then the court most likely would grant the name change.

    I receive a lot of questions surrounding father’s names not being on birth certificates. Just because a child’s father’s name is not on a birth certificate does not mean that child does not have a biological father. Every child has one father and one mother regardless of what papers say. If you intend to use the legal system to modify anything to do with a child, you will always have to include both parents in the suit.

  10. Tasha Wilson January 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Thank you so much, it’s what I expected!! I do keep in contact with bio-dad and can get a signature if needed. It was more of his decision to not be on the BC than mine. I was just confused as to the court’s view of the situation.

    Again, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question!

  11. Brittany Littles January 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Hello Chris,
    My situation is i want to change my twins middle and last name to their biological father’s name and also add his name on their birth certificate. Problem is my ex’s name is currently on their birth certificate but he is not their father. Just trying to get the necessary steps that i need to take…like do i need to do a paternity test to have proper proof? Please help!

  12. Chris Schmiedeke January 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    The questions is, were they born during your marriage to ex (if married)? Is there a court order in place that found that the ex was the father of the children? Those questions have to be answered before any further steps can be taken.

  13. Brittany Littles January 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Sorry for the delay, i was married to my ex. No t.heir arent any court orders

  14. Brittany Littles January 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Sorry for the delay, i was not married to my ex. No their arent any court orders.

  15. Beatriz March 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Chris,
    I have two girls and they have my last name and the girls’ last name ex. smith-willams. I have the court ordered documents where it states to have my last name first and then hyphenated. However, when i registered them in school someone told me i couldnt put them as what the documents say but what there brth certificates says. and that i had to send documents to austin in ordered to use my last name instead of there fathers… what do i need to do in order for them to have my last name???/ I do not understand

  16. Beatriz March 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Chris,
    I have two girls and they have my last name and the girls’ last name ex. smith-willams. I have the court ordered documents where it states to have my last name first and then hyphenated. However, when i registered them in school someone told me i couldnt put them as what the documents say but what there brth certificates says. and that i had to send documents to austin in ordered to use my last name instead of there fathers… what do i need to do in order for them to carry my last name in school, passports, in life general as i asked in court???/ I do not understand

  17. Chris Schmiedeke March 4, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    You can change their birth certificates to reflect what is in the court order. You will need to contact birth certificate records in your county and also have a certified copy of the order. Having the order is only step one of the process, step two is changing the birth certificates. Good luck.

  18. Beatriz March 4, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks Chris!!

  19. Yvette March 14, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    i live in Texas i had a little girl who is now 8 yers old me and the father never went to court for child support or any custody , or visitations. my daughter vistits her grandpartents on his side but he never tries to contact her. will i be able to changer her last name to mine.

    help. yvette

  20. Chris Schmiedeke March 14, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    With his agreement or a court order you will.

  21. Brandon March 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Chris,

    I recently went through a custody dispute with my ex (unmarried). She used to live in Alabama, and that is where the dispute was handled. Part of our court order is to change the child’s last name to mine ( I was not originally aware of his birth until the age of 2 ). She now resides in Texas with our son. My question is, do I need to file special paperwork or other documents with the Texas courts in order to have the name change finalized? If so, where do I begin with this process. If not, what is required (if you know) to have his paperwork changed ( such as birth certificate, social security card, etc )

  22. Lynell March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Chris,

    I have three children. My ex-husand is their father, though we were not married when the children were born. My oldest son has my maiden last name. When we divorced, I went back to my maiden name. My other two children have their father’s last name. One of them is asking to change her last name to mine. She does not want to be associated with her father. He has moved into another state, remarried and only calls when he needs something of me or to fuss that his child support (which he has never paid) is in arrears. How can I change her last name when he lives in another state? (The two with his last name, his name is on their birth certificates.)

  23. Chris Schmiedeke April 1, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    You have to file a lawsuit to change their name. He will have to approve or it will take a court hearing to do so. You can file in the county that issued the original order as they have jurisdiction over the children. Good luck.

  24. Lynell April 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Thank you.

  25. Tonya June 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I have a 8 year old daughter, her father is deceased as of 2010. The father was never actually in her life, but i made it a point to let her pay visits on a regular with his side of the family; was in the Arrears of over $5,000.00. We were never married, but his name is on the Birth Certificate. Upon his death she’s stated to me she wants to change her last name to mine. Her teachers have questioned me if there has been a name change because they’ve noticed that she signs her last name as mines (young). Now she gets Child SSI, would a name change affect her ability to continue receiving her SSI benefits? And what’s my first step in getting the process started? Thanks for your help.

  26. Wendy July 11, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    My daughter is 15 months old and father isn’t on her birth certificate and wasn’t around for a whole year because he didn’t believe she was his. We were married but separated when I got pregnant. We are recently divorced but nothing in paperwork on changing last name. He now wants me to change it. I want her to have my last name but know legally since he is paying I have to give her his. He says he is taking me to court to have it changed and will fight me on it being hyphenated with mine also. Will judge allow me to do this?

  27. Chris Schmiedeke July 12, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Depends on the judge. Some will, some will not.

  28. Nichole July 18, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    My son is 6 years old and father isn’t on the birth certificate because he wasn’t around during or after pregnancy because he didn’t believe he was his. Originally, I gave my son a hyphenated name with biological father’s last name on the end. After biological father made it evident that he wanted no part in son’s life, I changed his last name to my maiden name because I was still in the allotted time period to change his name. When my son was 3 months old I meet my current husband. Biological father sporadically pays child support, refuses to follow the court order in regards to visitation, and thus does not know his son at all. My husband is the only father that my son knows and like to give him my husband’s last name as opposed to mine. If the biological father doesn’t agree, will I ever be able to change my sons’ name?

  29. Chris Schmiedeke August 1, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Probably not without his agreement unless you terminate his parental rights and your husband adopts.

  30. Ashley September 2, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    How do u serve a bio father for a name change if u can’t find him? He moved out of state and refuses to give a location so he can be served.

  31. Tatjana October 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    I don’t know how easy or hard this will be. I am divorced now for a little over 3 years. My ex-husband and I never had court order on visitation or child support and all that. I tried hard to keep him in the girls life. He showed up on and off. He never payed the amount that he would supposed to but I was OK with that. He did pay child support for the most part after I text messaged him every month to remind him. My current husband and I moved to Texas from Germany ( he is in the army, my ex husband is also) about the same time my ex husband got stationed in Washington. The issue basically started once we all resided in the USA. November of last year. He never called skipped payments and promised her to come but never did. She sees my Husband as her daddy and now for the first time I think that it would be the best thing if she would be adopted by him. There is no relationship between my daughter and her biological father. And after emailing and texting him asking why he does not want a part of her life and not getting an answer so far I am really over it. I wished for it to be different but he shows no effort . Now to make a long story short. How hard do you think it would be to terminate his rights so my husband can adopt her if he would not voluntarily do it, since there was never a court order about paying child support or visitation. Should I file for child support because he stopped paying after all. Or should I go straight for the termination. How do you think would a judge rule on a situation like this. I just want whats best for our girl. Thank you for your help

  32. Samantha October 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I dont want to change the biological fathers last name but i would love to change his first name, is this a complicated process? i do not feel my son’s name is whats best for him and that it will give him problems in life. The father asked me to reconsider my sons name the day he was born. he wasnt around the first year and the second year hes only been around when he stopped by his parents house when he felt like it. He’s over 5 grand behind in childsupport. i think it would be best for my son if i just changed the first name, would that he hard to do in court if the father doesnt agree with the change? do i have to serve him just to change the first name and not the last name?

  33. John November 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    My son was born in 1995. Mother and I never married and split up. Child support order through Colorado. Mother then moved to Ohio. New child support order there, overrides previous Colorado order. (Not sure why) Anyway mother now moved to Texas. She is wanting to hyphenate my sons last name to that of his stepfathers. He is my son and I am not in agreement with this. She says she can do it with or without my consent. It would just be easier with my signature. Is this true? And can it be done in Texas when all court ordered paperwork is from Ohio? (which neither of us live) Thank you for any help you can give.

  34. Tijuana December 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    My mom has decided she wants to change my little brothers name and so does he( hes 12). His father has done nothing for him his entire life but make broken promises… anywho. We want to know how long does the father have to respond after being served for him to have a say so. Thanks for the help in advance

  35. Mfon December 24, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I’m the custondial parent of the child. The father used to have visitation rights at the safe place because he molested the child when she was 3 years. The child hates her last name bcs she cannot pronounce it neither have any of her teachers ever been able to pronounce it. She’s going to high school and wants to change the name to her fathers first name which is easy to pronounce. If the father does not agree to this as he has lost on every side with this child. Do we have a case? What can we do?

  36. Chris Schmiedeke January 5, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    FIle a petition to change the name of the child.

  37. Chris Schmiedeke January 5, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    If you served him with the papers, he has until the first Monday following the expiration of twenty days from the date of service.

  38. gina January 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    I want to change by daughters last name to mine and my husbands the last name she has is my ex husbands but we were not married when she was born and we did dna and it say she is not his. we live in tx so how do I go about changing it.

  39. Charity January 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I have an 11 year old with my ex husband who is in prison for the second time since my child was born. He was sent to prison the first time 2 months after my childs second birthday for drugs and burglary of a habitation. I divorced him shortly there after. When my child turned 6 he was released, and I made several attempts to allow him time to be with my child as long as there was someone I trusted there as well like his mother. In the short time that he was free he made only one attempt to drive the 4 hour trip to where I lived to come see my child and that was because his mother wanted him to. All other times it was up to me and most of the time he would not even show up. During this time my child began to lose all interest in her biological father. He was sent back to prison 2 yrs later for what I belive was the same charges. My child is now 11 and it has been more than 2 years since my exhusband has made any attempt at contact. I am remarried and my child sees my husband as her Dad and has asked about having my husband adopt her, and having her last name changed. I do not know where to begin, if I have a case at all, and if I so should I go before a judge with my daughters request or do I need to find my ex and see if he will sign papers terminating his parental rights. Help please.

  40. crae January 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    if biofather and I are in the process of him relinquishing his rights to our daughter, how do i go by getting her last name changed to my maiden name after he signs the relinquishment(he has agreed to sign.) Do i still have to serve him or go to court for this since he’ll have no ties to my daughter legally other than his name being on the birth certificate?

  41. jennifer f. January 31, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I have 2 teenage daughters. Their father has not had anything to do with them in over 12 years. He has been ordered to pay child support but doesnt. My daughters want their last names changed. They are 15 and 17. I have sole managing conservetor of my daughters. My understanding is I have the legal right to make legal decisions concerning them as to where he doesnt. My divorce papers have a permanent protective order against him. My daughters do not want to carry his last name. Everything I have read said I need his signature. But I can not locate him or his family. With him not having legal rights to make legal decisions concerning him do i still need his signature or to locate him. Thank you

  42. Roy March 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    The mother of my son was ordered to change his name years ago when paternity was confirmed. She has yet to do it even though I have asked several times. While we do have an amicable relationship usually I don’t understand why she hasn’t done this. We don’t live in the same city currently, but what can I do to get this resolved?

  43. Chris Schmiedeke March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    I think your only option is to file an enforcement with the court and have her explain to the judge why she has not followed the judge’s order. You will need an attorney wherever the case was previously held as that Court still has jurisdiction. Good luck.

  44. Chris Schmiedeke March 2, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    The name change can be done in the termination lawsuit. The signing of a relinquishment does not terminate parental rights, only an order of termination can terminate parental rights. You really need to speak to an attorney in your area.

  45. Rachel March 29, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    I have filed a petition to change the last names of my two oldest daughters to that of my husband’s and the rest of our family. The biological father is in agreement with this, I sent him the petition which he signed and had notarized. I called to get a court date for this and was told he would have to be served or sign a waiver, despite the fact that he already signed the petition. I don’t think this is correct information based on what I’ve read. My ex does not live in the US. He is very difficult to contact, and I have no idea how one would be served papers when they are living in Japan on a secure military base. He has already signed the petition as well as papers for the vital statistics office for the name change. Do I really have to do more than this or am I the victim of misinformed court clerks? Thanks.

  46. Chris Schmiedeke March 29, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    What the clerk’s are telling you is correct. You have to prove service on the father or that he waived service. Signing your request to change the kids’ names accomplishes neither of these. A petition to change name is just a request on your part, there is nothing for him to approve or sign on that document. He needs to sign a waiver of service, which can be notarized on base and returned to you. Good luck.

  47. llthasti March 30, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    will by children be able to change their names legally at 17. They have already been using their last name of choice unofficially, but they want the new name legally. They don’t know their biological father because he has chosen to not be involved.

  48. Chris Schmiedeke April 2, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    The biological father would have to consent to the name change until the children reach majority. However, it has been some time since I have reviewed the child name change statute, so it may be 17. Talk to a local attorney, and they will be able to verify. My gut tells me it is 18 because the courts retain jurisdiction until the child reaches 18.

    Good luck.

  49. James May 17, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    If Bio Mom is a co petitioner on a name change of 4 children and is the possessory conservator and has signed in front of a notary the petition and the order. How long does it take to get the order signed. Do I have to serve anyone since all involved are a petitioner or co petitioner to the suit. I am in Dallas County.

  50. Tina Everett May 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    just want father to sign off all rights to our daughter………..And change her last name to mine Everett the birth c was not singed by him at that time i also down loaded free papers to have it taken care of and it was so simple now all i have to do is to let him know………… Im pretty sure he will not mind hi has a CPA and shes giving him out dated info she needs to go and be REFREASHED on the right facts………….. how can u help me if he refuses to do this ???? and he can still come to visit and see her i just cant take the verbal abuse when he out of sink and im praying that he will understand ,my daughter and i feel like we r a burden to him, All i want is a happy and forfeeling relation ship with him…………. Thanks Ms.Claretta

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