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.