Changing Your Child's Name

Last Updated On: 3/22/2016 2:00:37 PM

I want to change my child’s name. How do I do that?

Changing your child’s name in West Virginia is a simple process if the right steps are followed and you meet the requirements.

The parents or legal guardians of the child must file a Petition for Change of Name with the court. The court must then sign an order granting the new name. To allow a person to change their name, the court has certain requirements that must be met to make sure that the name change is not being done for illegal or improper reasons.

When a change of name is desired in an adoption, the laws regarding adoptions will determine the requirements and procedures for a change of name of a minor child.

What are the requirements to change my child’s name?

Before you file paperwork to ask a court to change your child’s name, you should know that there are certain requirements that must be met.

(1) Age: To file paperwork to change your child’s name, you must be at least 18 years old.

(2) Where to File: You can file a Petition for Change of Name with the circuit court or family court in the county where the child has lived for 1 year prior to filing or where the child was born.

(3) Parent or Legal Guardian: You must be a parent or legal guardian to file the Petition for Change of Name on behalf of a child.

(4) Notice: Generally, both of the child’s parents will have to know about the Petition. If only one of the birth parents is filing the petition, you must generally provide notice to child’s other parent. If you don’t know the other parent’s current whereabouts, you will have to prove to the court that you have made a reasonably diligent effort to locate the other parent before your child’s name can be changed.

(5) Best Interests: When a name change involves a child, you have to prove to the court that it is in the best interests of the child.

How do I provide notice to the other birth parent?

If you are asking for a name change for a child, you must notify the child’s other parent. If you do not know where he/she is located, then you must show the court you used reasonable effort to locate him/her to give notice. If the child’s other parent is deceased, you must give notice to his/her parents (child’s grandparents).

a. Personal Service by the Sheriff’s Department: Notice is delivered to the other parent by the Sheriff’s Department for a $20 fee paid to the Circuit Clerk’s Office. You must provide precise directions to the other parent’s home or work address.

b. Acceptance of Service: The other parent can sign an Acceptance of Service in front of a Notary Republic then you can file it with the Circuit Clerk.

c. Personal Service by a Private Process Server: As long as a person is at least 18 years of age and is not a party to the case, this person can serve notice to the other parent. After process, this person must complete an affidavit confirming the other parent was served then file it with the Circuit Clerk.

d. Service by Certified Mail: The Circuit Clerk can mail notice to the other parent through certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested.

e. Service by Publication: Only if you do not know the other parent’s address or he/she lives out of state and will not sign the return receipt of service by certified mail can you publish notice in a newspaper in the county you filed. You must also file an Affidavit of Unknown Residency with the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Are there reasons I might not be able to change by child’s name?

A court will not allow you to change your child’s name if you are asking for a reason that is improper or illegal.

What is the Petition for Change of Name?

The Petition for Change of Name is the form you file with the Court asking for the name change for your child. A fill in the blank Petition can be found here.  Legal Aid of West Virginia created this form for people to fill out and file on their own. You can handwrite or type your Petition. You can handwrite or type your Petition.

The Petition must be verified, which means that the Petitioner must sign the Petition in front of a notary public and swear that all information in the Petition is true. The last page of the Petition above has a verification. Usually, someone in the Circuit Clerk’s office is a notary public and will notarize your verified Petition when you go to file it. Do not sign the verification until you are in front of a notary public.

When you are finished preparing your Petition, you will file it with the Circuit Clerk’s office. The Circuit Clerk will assign your case to a judge and will give your case a Civil Action Number.

What information is in the Petition for Name Change?

The person filing the Petition is called the Petitioner. Under West Virginia law, the Petitioner must include the following information in the Petition:

  1. The current name and age of the child;
  2. The child’s parents’ names and addresses;
  3. That the child is a resident of the county where the petitioner filed one year prior to filing the petition or, if the child is not a resident of the county, then that the child was born in that county;
  4. The reason the name change is being requested;
  5. The full new name requested;
  6. That the name change sought is not for purposes of avoiding debt or creditors;
  7. That the Petitioner is not a registered sex offender;
  8. That the name change sought is not for purposes of avoiding any state or federal law regarding identity;
  9. That the name change sought is not for any improper or illegal purpose;
  10. That the Petitioner is not a convicted felon in any jurisdiction; and
  11. That the name change sought is not for any purpose of evading detection, identification or arrest by any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

You can also ask that your child’s identity be protected for personal safety reasons. You should include a sentence or two about this in your Petition. You should also seek advice from an attorney or domestic violence program for assistance with this.

Is there a fee for filing the Petition for Change of Name?

There are fees for filing the Petition for Change of Name. However, if you file Fee Waiver form and it is approved, you will not have to pay to file your Petition. You can find a Fee Waiver form here. Fill out the form completely, but do not sign it except in front of a notary public or the staff at the Circuit Clerk’s office. The staff at the Clerk’s office will go over this form and let you know whether you qualify for a waiver of the filing fee for your case.

What is the Civil Case Information Sheet?

This form gives the Court basic information about your case. You do not need to fill in a name for the Defendant. You can find a civil case information sheet here.

What is the Legal Notice of Publication?

After you file the Petition with the Circuit Clerk’s office, you should ask the judge’s office for a date and time for a hearing. At least 10 days before the hearing, you must publish a notice in a newspaper in the county where you filed your Petition.

The Circuit Clerk’s office may provide you with forms for a “Legal Notice of Publication Change of Name.” If not, here is one you can fill out.

If you asked that your child’s identity be protected for personal safety reasons and your request is granted, the court will not require you to put your child’s new name in the notice and the court may order that your hearing be closed to the public.

Are there fees for filing the Legal Notice of Publication?

There are fees for filing the publication in your local newspaper. However, you may be able to avoid paying these fees if you file a Fee Waiver and it is approved. Here is a motion you can file with the court, asking that you not pay the fees.

Once you have published the notice, you will need to file proof of publication with the court.

What happens at the court hearing?

At the hearing, the judge will go over the information in your Petition. The judge will ask you to swear under oath that the information in your Petition is true. The judge will likely review the prohibited reasons for changing your name with you and want you to testify under oath that you are not seeking your child’s name change for any of those reasons. The judge will also make sure that you gave proper notice as required by law.

If these requirements are met and the change of name does not violate the law, then the judge may order a change of name for your child. The judge will write and sign an Order. Once you receive the Order signed by the judge, you are responsible for making sure a copy of the Order is filed with the clerk of the county commission in the county where you live.

What happens after the judge approves the name change?

Once the name of the child has been changed it is your responsibility to inform government agencies, schools, and other interested agencies of the new name.

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.