Changing a Child's Name
Berkeley Parents Network >
Parenting, Families, & the Community >
Changing a Child's Name
Our daughter is 6 weeks old. I have been ambivalent about her
name since we picked it. I remain ambivalent. Its does not feel
like a strong enough name and I just don't like it. We of course
have told family/friends etc - have social security card and
birth certificate...I know its not that hard to change
(paperwork and fees) BUT what about telling all the people? We
are going to do birth announcments so I think we need to decide
before that. My husband LOVES her name but I think would be
willing to change it. Oh, and I love what we named our older
child (so I know its possible, right?). Oh, and generally
everyone who hears the name comments that they like it (if that
Anyone change a name at this date? how did you deal with friends
and family? any other advice? glad (a few years down the road)
you changed it?
I think I am past the hormonal stage at this point so I don't
think its that.
I have a friend who changed her daughter's name when she turned
one year old, so it's not too late for you to change your child's
name if you feel that strongly about it.
you're not the only one
Change it! My name was Amy Elizabeth for my first two days of life. Then, while still in
the hospital, my mom found out that our dog chewed the skirt off the brand new
couch. She cried all night, decided she hated the name Amy, and without telling my
dad, changed my name to Julie Christine. My dad, being the smart man that he is, said,
''No problem,'' when she told him that his little Amy was now Julie. Now I'm 35 and it's
a great story to tell at dinner parties.
Happily, Julie Christine
I felt exactly like you but didn't change the name and so regret
it so I really really encourage you to do it if that's how you
feel. Don't worry about what other people think, once you know
what feels right, start calling them by that new name - most will
assume it's a nickname or the middle name that you now use. In
our case we didn't name the child the name we wanted to because
some friends just had named their child the same name so we went
with our second choice. It really started to bother me by the
time our son was 6 months old and I looked into changing his name
but by that time he had 2 passports and it would be too much work
to change it with his dual citizenship country. I so regret it.
Whatever you do, DON'T worry about what anyone else thinks, I
can't believe we let that influence us to begin with, that other
couple ended up moving away and we never even see them anymore so
it's so stupid it influenced such an important decision!
I have never felt totally right about my baby's name. She is
about to turn 1 and now that I've gotten to know her I think I
have a name that is better suited for her. Would it be crazy to
change her name?
I support your doing what feels right. Sometimes we need to get
to know our kids before we can really know their names. And
your child will readily adjust. I think it would better to
change her name than to always feel regret at not having done
Understanding the need to feel good about one's name
If your sure that the name change is really in response to her emerging personality,
and not some chronic restlessness or sleep deprivation on your part, then what the
heck! Having changed my own name, I can tell you that there were awkward moments
as I announced the change, but I don't regret it. It's nice to have a name that
Change the babe's name and move on. Just think about how it will sound after being
called through the neighborhood, or when the kid's in school, or as an adult.
for it...and good luck!
By all means, change it. We struggled to come up with a name for our son while I
pregnant, and made lists and went over them. We chose the name Nathaniel, but I
remember thinking, ''what if it's not right? How will we know?'' Fortunately, it's
that we like, and he likes. But I know someone named Leda whose parents had a name
for her at birth that didn't fit, so they called a few friends over when she was a
weeks old to brainstorm and come up with a better name. Naming is so difficult and
there's no good way of predicting if a name will fit or not, so change it now while
No, you're not crazy at all. I'm stuck with a name that never,
ever fit me as a person or a personality. I'm used to it now,
and so is everyone else which is why I never changed it, but
honestly, even my own mother acknowledges that I'm not now nor
have I ever been a Heather. I always felt like I was an Erika
(another name for Heather), or even a Jessica or Miranda... but
no one ever considered changing my name, evven when they got to
know who I ''really'' am. I wish they had...
Now that you know your child, do change the name, please. S/he
can always do something else or change it back later.
I haven't posted anything on the thread before, but I wanted to
add for all the parents currently choosing names to really
thing about people's perceptions of the names you are
considering. Ask around if you aren't sure! If you choose
something unusual (for whatever reason - like the sound, family
reasons, want to be different, etc), consider the impact on
your child. I'm not saying you have to go with a good old
classic or a popular name, but honestly, I can tell you that
when I hear names that are too unusual or even ''weird'' (sorry,
my interpretation), I feel sorry for the child. I'm not writing
this to single anyone out and I'm not trying to hurt anyone's
feelings, but I'm just trying to be honest.
Some names instantly conjure up a less than positive image and
association. Some names make me laugh or want to roll my eyes.
Some names are difficult to pronounce or spell. Some names seem
like an unnecessary burden on the child. Some names will hold a
A name is a powerful thing. It is one of the first things that
we learn about a person. Sometimes it is the only thing!
Imagine going through a stack of resumes or deciding between
two qualified candidates - a name could tip the balance!
Associations that we make when we hear names are instant and
even subconscience. We all do it, even if we don't want to.
Spent a little time thinking about the importance of naming
your child. Thing about a baby, a student, a lawyer, a mom, a
senior with that name. Does it still work? What will people
think when you yell that name across the playground or when the
child introduces themselves at school or later at work? Choose
Classic names for my kids
We changed the name of the son we adopted from Russia when he
was a year old. His given name is unheard in the USA (ourside
of Russian communities) and was difficult to pronounce and
spell. The nickname of his given name was apparently a strong,
trendy name in Russia, but friends pointed out that it sounded
like 2-3 other English words - ones that were not positive and
even unpleasant/negative. It was clear that we had to pick
I appreciate the lady who posted saying that she is all for
culturally-derived names. However, it is worth considering how
these names will be received by the mainstream or dominant
culture in the country were you live. In Russia, my son's name
was a good one. Here in the USA, it probably would have been
considered odd/different as best. He may very well have been
teased about the name and saddled with something that he would
always have to explain, pronounce and spell!
We changed our son's name to something that still recognized
his Russian heritage and was a known name in English. The name
we choose: Alexander.
Struggled with the naming dilemma
I have a very unusual/difficult to pronounce name and a last
name that 12-year-old boys used to make fun of.
However, I am so proud of my name and would never change it. I
love having a name that is unique -- that my parents chose
specifically for me. Unlike many posters -- I pity those of
you with normal names not those with unusual names.
Some people look at me oddly when I tell them my name... but I
consider it their problem, not mine.
As for my last name, I am happy to say that I never even
understood the jokes boys made when I was a girl... Which
seemed to have been the perfect rebuttal.
Raising children does not require universal concensus! It is
great to get other opinions... but you are not going to get
everyone to agree.
I was in the exact same situation - I have phsical AND legal
custody and there has been no contact for years with the
biological father. I did try to do a name change (paid lots of
money, add in paper...) It did NOT go through - talk to me
before you move ahead. I hope the moderator can give you my
information as I can't be public with my name around this issue.
When my mother changed my name as a five-year-old to my step
dad's name, we did so in court. Many years later, I changed my
last name, adopting my mother's maiden name. Not that my step-
dad wasn't a wonderful father (he certainly was and still is);
I just felt that his last name never really fit me. At the
time, in my twenties, I was told that the name would become
mine through usage. I never went to court, never filed any
paperwork. I just began to use my new last name all the time
and everywhere. I don't recall it being a problem to have my
driver's license changed.
Since you have full legal custody, it wouldn't surprise me if
this were the case, but I'd certainly check it out with an
attorney or by calling the registrar at the Alameda County
Courthouse, because you are dealing with a minor, after all.
best of luck with this wise choice
It is very easy to change one's name in California, and you don't need to publish
anything in the newspapers or hire a lawyer. It's just a matter of going to Social
Security and doing a few other things. Check out the Nolo Press book on California
p.s. I wish my mom had done the same for me when my father left. I ended up
changing my name as an adult, and it was a lot more trouble at that stage in life.
We would like to change the name of our child, born about 10
days ago, as in the haze at the hospital we chose a name that
now seems wrong!! In contacting the state, etc. this seems to
be a bureaucratic nightmare. Has anyone had experience going
through this process, esp. how long it might take, whether a
lawyer is necessary, etc...? We were told that it might take up
to a year, which would be ok, but we might be travelling
internationally in the next 6 months and therefore need a
passport for the child which requires a birth certificate. Is
there any reason to just wait and do the name change at a more
convenient time, say in a year?
It is not a big deal to change a baby's name. We went through
the same thing 2 years ago....after leaving Alta Bates had a
change of heart about her name & it was too late to change the
birth certificate. As she was also about a week old we just
announced the new name to friends & family & I bought the Nolo
Press book about changing a name. I did not use a lawyer...filed
court papers myself. The book explains everything...you have to
place an ad in a local paper & file papers & ultimately appear
in court. We filed papers in Jan. Feb. of 2002 & had a court
date in 4/2002. The only drawback is that her birth certificate
will always have the original name & an amendment has the new
name. I feel badly & hope my daughter won't be too upset with
that when she is an adu! lt. Some aquaintances made stupid remarks
& I still feel a bit silly about the whole thing but it was not
a big deal and not too much of a hassle.
A Rose is a Rose
We did something similar in the haze after the birth - we misspelled
son's name (one l too many). We actually went back to the hospital and
they just issued another ''confirmation of birth'' (name?) with the
spelling. I guess since it was ''just'' the confirmation and not the
birth certificate it was relatively easy. Don't know if that applies to
changing the name altogether though.
My wife and I are considering making a minor change to our 2 year
old child's name (spelling it slightly differently so people will
pronounce it the way we intended it to be pronounced). I went to
the courthouse to inquire about it, and found out that we
actually have to go to court to do so, as well pay a filing fee
of nearly $300.
My question is this: What happens if we keep her name as it is
officially, but spell it differently for our own purposes, school
registration, etc. Will there be any issues with Social
Security, school districts, etc.? We really don't want to spend
$300 plus the time it would take to add one letter to her name.
My now-21-year-old son changed the spelling of his name
when he was 5. He was learning to write his name - Joseph.
I told him that his grandfather whom he was
named for, spelled his name Josef. He told me he wanted to use
that spelling because it is faster to write and because an 'f'
is easier to write than a 'p'. He persisted in always writing it
Josef, and has spelled his name Josef ever since. We did not
'legally' change it. His birth certificate has Joseph, but his
driver's license and passport both have Josef, as do all of his
school and medical records. Over the years, there have always
been teachers and doctors and etc. putting it down as Joseph,
but not because of the difference in his birth certificate name,
just because that is the more usual spelling and people assume
that's how he spells it. It has never been a problem, other than
he usually has to spell it out for people over the phone.
Of course now he goes exclusively by 'Joe', which happened in middle
school. No matter how diligently parents insist on a name for
their child, the middle school friends will win that battle!
I don't have legal advice but my experience having used three
versions of my name (Margi, Margee, Margaret) and experience
misspellings galore (Margie, Marge, etc) is that the
contradictions on paperwork have not caused problems. I had
Margee on my SS card, but filing taxes as Margaret did not cause
questions, the SS # itself and the Driver's License seem to
become the main source of adult identity confirmation so if you
clearly establish alot of documents with your preferred spelling
before age 16 you might have enough documentation to get the DL
with your preferred spelling without the court change on the
birth certificate. I also had an error in the last name for own
of my kids but for school and medical records I have used the
correct full name and hope not to find problems down the road
for them. (Or pay for the change when the child is closer to
adulthood if it has not worked in practice.)
My mother changed the spelling of my name when I was a baby, but
I didn't find out until I saw my birth certificate when I went
to get my driver's permit. All she did was add one L to my name
to ''make it look prettier,'' but she never did a legal name
The biggest problem I had was when I tried to open a bank
account at the age of 17 (after I had left home). Somehow it
got resolved and I got the bank account. I have had other
people question me when I've gone to get a driver's license, but
I guess because it is a one-letter change and I tell the story
of why my mom changed it, they let me through. All of my legal
IDs, passport, credit cards, etc has my new spelling; it's just
my birth certificate that doesn't.
My sister also changed the spelling of her name in high school
but not legally and as far as I know, has not run into any
trouble because of it.
I think if it's a minor spelling change, you don't need to go
through legal channels.
Anyone out there who goes by a different last name that the one
on your birth certificate? If so, has it affected your life in
At birth, we gave our toddler my last name, but now we want to
change his name to both my partner's name and my last name,
Here's the issue: I'm considering getting an official court-
ordered name change for our child. I realize that people can go
by whatever name they choose, especially if we simply enroll him
under the now desired last name in school. But if we are
blessed with another child, I don't particularly want my kids to
have two different last names, since we will put both last names
on that birth certificate.
I went to the City of Berkeley vital records website, which says
that a birth certificate cannot be amended unless a
typographical error was made on the original form. They require
a court order otherwise.
My partner feels that if all our children use the same last
name, it does not matter what's on the birth certificates, b/c
people don't really compare birth certificates with each other -
even siblings. I suspect my partner's instinct is correct.
It seems to me that the more important thing to do is to change
my son's name on his Social Security card (which might not
require a court order, per ''Social Security Online'' website),
that he has consistency for employment/tax purposes. Anyone
have thoughts on whether we should get a court ordered name
change in order to amend our child's birth certificate?
My mom changed my name when she got married- I was 8. So my
early school & med records have the name on my birth cert (last
name of my bio father)& everything else has my (step)dad's
name. My SS card, which I got as a teenager, even has my 'new'
name- not sure how she pulled that off. I managed to get
through school, get college loans, driver license, credit cards,
a marriage cert, etc with this 'assumed' name. The only time it
became an issue was when I applied for a passport. I had to get
a letter from my mom & my paternal grandparents that Virginia X,
of the birth cert, & Virginia Y, of everything else, were in
fact the same person.
Our daughter has had to submit her birth certificate to play on
recreational soccer teams. I don't know if it would make any
difference if the name she used was different from the name on
her birth certificate, but it seems like it might make things
I am one of those people whose last name is different from
what it says on my birth certificate. Trust me, this is really no
big deal. What happened is, my mother divorced my father
when I was about 9 months old. My mother decided to
''change'' my last name to her maiden name. Essentially, all
this means is that you put the new name on all other
records: Social Security, school, etc. Legally, after using a
name for a certain amount of time, you can claim that name
as yours (that's my understanding anyway). At any rate,
when I got my first California ID (when I was in my teens), all
I had to do was indicate on the application form what my
current last name was (because it is different from what's
on my birth certificate) and that was *it,* no hassle, no
problems. Of course, I'd been enrolled in all my schools
under this name (my mother's maiden name), so it was
already on my school records.
So, my point is, this really isn't a big deal, especially since
you're starting with her as a baby. I really don't think you
need to bother with filing any legal paperwork or anything.
Hope this helps!
All the best,
It sounds as if your decision about the name has already been
made, so perhaps this comment is irrelevant, but our solution for
babies' last names has been to alternate. The first child has
his last name, the second mine, and so forth. We realized that
when all the young hyphenateds marry one other, as surely they
will, their last names will grow exponentially. Grandchildren
with four last names; greatgrandchildren with eight! Either
that, or they make the invidious choice that we refused to:
which of their forbears to abandon?
It was a geeky solution, but it has posed no problem at all that
our children have different last names. And, as my brothers have
no child with our last name, had I not done this, it would have
meant the end of our not-so-illustrious line.
My husband has had his name changed several times over his
lifetime. The first time it was changed (he was 7 or 8), they
(the county/parish where he was born in Louisiana) crossed out
his original name on the birth certificate and wrote in his new
name (don't think that was quite legal but hwat the hey). He then
changed his name again right before we got married at age 24 and
did it through the social security office. It was very easy. It
doesn't matter what's on your birth certificate as much as what's
on your SS card, apparently.
He has a copy of his birth certificate (complete with the crossed
line) and he just writes a letter of explanation along with a
copy of his SS card.
Some years back I decided to drop my surname and push my middle
name up to surname status. I went the court route, and it was a
pretty easy do-it-yourself process, though it did cost about
$150 or so. I used the certified court order to get a new social
security card and driver's license. My birth certificate was not
amended. Nolo Press had a good book ''How to Change Your Name''
that gives the pros and cons of changing the name officially.
Based on my own experience I would advise you to go ahead and
have your child's name amended on his birth certificate. While
my situation is different from yours (I'm a naturalized US
citizen, born in Europe and adopted by Americans), different
names on different records has at times created problems in my
adult life. For example, I'm now facing a huge mess (trying to
prove who I am) as I collect all my vital records together for
the (international) adoption of a second child. Anyway, just a
thought. By doing it now you may save your child some future
problems. Also, have you checked Oakland vital records? I was
also thinking about hyphenating my child's last name (never got
around to it) and as I recall, they just require you to fill out
The only time I can imagine the name on his birth certificate
making any difference is when he needs a passport. The passport
agency is kind of weird about 'usage' name changes and if he
needs one before he has a driver's license you may have some
trouble getting the passport issued in the correct (newer) name.
But you could always go the court order route if and when
needed; you don't have to go and do it by any particular
deadline. As I understand it, though, getting a name change
court order is not particularly difficult nor terribly
expensive, so if not having the right name on his birth cert
bothers you or if you ever encounter any problems, go ahead and
do it. Nolo Press does a book with all the necessary forms and
You are in luck! Our own story is a long one that I won't go into
here, but you have an excellent option. If you want to give a
child it's father's surname or add the father's name to an
existing surname (as in hyphenate), you can do so with a form
called an ''Application to Amend a Birth Record: Acknowledgement
of Paternity'' (form #VS22). In this case only, the original birth
certificate is sealed and a new birth record is prepared. It
takes 9 months to be recorded and it costs something like $20
(much less than that court order route). Many people, including
the ones at Vital Records, do not know about and/or misunderstand
this option. This is *not* the father acknowledging paternity. It
is fine if the father is already listed on the birth certificate.
If you want more information, feel free to contact me. I actually
have all the information and a blank form you can use.
Good luck, Melissa
My children have different last names because somehow we filled
the form out wrong--I can't remember now the details of how this
happened. Instead of hyphenating our last names, we decided to
use one last name as a middle name (i.e. John Smith Jones);
however, on our second child, the two names (middle and last) were
registered under the last name only. So one child has Jones for
the last name and the other has Smith Jones. We found out about
this ''different'' last name when we
got our tax return back and they did not allow us the deduction
for the second child, because his last name did not match his
social security number. (We sent in the paperwork with his name
matching his birth certificate, and it was easily corrected.) So
I think the social security name is key. My husband changed his
own name at Social security and did not bother with his birth
How do I go about changing my child's middle name?? I know this
is a strange question -- there's nothing scandalous about this
desire to change it, mostly I just regret not using this
particular name in the first place...and now know I won't have
another child, so want her to have this middle name. She is a
toddler so isn't aware of her full name. Do I start with her
birth certificate? Social security?
Thanks for your help,
This is what I had to do to change the spelling of my daughters
Contact or go to the place that holds your childs birth
certificate. (City that baby was born. In Berkeley that is the
City of Berkeley, Vital Records Dept., 2344 SIXTH Street. Get an
''Application to Amend a Record''. There is a fee if baby is over a
year old. Maybe it is the same process for changing the name.
I changed my last name using a guide from Nolo Press. The guide
(I forgot the title) was amazingly easy to use. I just followed
the steps, one, two, three. Nolo is located in Berkeley, but I
believe I used the website. Oh, one requirement is that a notice
be published in a local paper. There is a cheap one (~$90?) just
two blocks from the courthouse where you have to go to file the
papers, assuming you're in Alameda County.
We're in the process of changing our child's middle name as
well. It's relatively straightforward, but time consuming and
rather expensive. I suggest you purchase a book through NoLo
Press called, ''Changing Your Name in California'' (you can order
it off their web site). They provide very easy instructions
and all of the paperwork you will need. You MUST file for a
name change through the courts in order to make the name change
I previously posted an advice about name changing, as we had
done so some years back. Again, let me emphasize that in
California, changing your last/first/middle name does NOT
require any court procedure whatsoever. The only thing you need
to do legally in this state is file a Social Security form and
notify the DMV. Nothing more, nothing less. So don't waste your
time with Nolo Press or put an add in the paper as adviced by
previous postings. This is California after all..
From another name changer.
In a recent post, someone emphatically said that ''...in
California, changing your last/first/middle name does NOT
require any court procedure whatsoever.'' I'm sorry to say that
this is NO LONGER THE CASE, at least for adults such as my
husband. The laws in California have CHANGED in the past year or
two. My husband just did a name change in December of 2001--it
now DOES require the paperwork, filing fees, etc. Believe me, we
regretted not having gotten around to it sooner! I would
recommend Nolo Press, as many others have done, to find out what
the current requirements are.
Somehow both my and my husband's last name are listed on my son's birth
certificate as his last name (my memory of filling out those papers at
the hospital are muddle). However, we want him to have only one name as
a last name and the other as a middle name. So now I am faced with
changing his name legally. (I discovered this when our tax return was
amended last year because the feds noted that the name we listed for my
son--one last name--did not match the social security number)
I have got different advice on how to change his name. The one that
sounded most legitimate was to get the book "Changing your Name Legally
in California" by Nolo Press, but that the forms in this book are out of
date and I need to go to Martinez to get the new forms (I live in Contra
Costa County). Has anyone gone thru this process of a legal name
change? Is it easier than it sounds? I almost feel it's not worth it,
except he has a different last name than all the rest of the family, and
I don't want to have further problems with "the system" as he gets
I sent your message to my husband, who is going through the name change
process himself right now. Here's what he said:
"So, if I understand correctly, at the beginning of the year the forms
changed state wide. There is a new Nolo book coming in April which will have
the new forms.
Since the forms are now uniform, you should be able to get the forms here:
You should still call the courthouse and ask the questions in the Nolo book."
Hope this helps!
this page was last updated: Apr 9, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network