Parents can change their baby's name after birth, but there is a legal process involved.
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How Do You Change Your Baby’s Name?

It’s a legal process and the steps to take can vary.

When you give birth, there’s a lot that goes on. It’s whirlwind to say the least, so it’s entirely possible to make a mistake on your baby’s birth certificate or pick a name that just doesn’t stick once you go home from the hospital or birthing center. But, can you change your baby’s name? As it turns out, it’s actually not a super uncommon thing for parents to want to make a switch, even once the ink has dried on the birth certificate.

Allow me to set the scene: You just arrived home from the hospital with your new bundle of joy. After a few days of late night feedings and endless diaper changes, you realize that the baby you’ve called Stella for the past week or so actually doesn’t feel like a Stella at all. Every time you say her name, you know in your heart it’s just not the right name for your baby. Instead, you find yourself gravitating to the name Sara and frantically Google searching who to turn to to help you change your baby’s name.

How To Change Your Baby’s Name

“A good place for parents to start is by gathering any necessary documentation,” Carrie Quick, a family law attorney with Sodoma Law tells Romper. If you don’t already have copy of your baby’s original birth certificate that was signed at the hospital and filed with your state’s registry, you’ll need to collect that first and foremost.

“Once you’ve gathered any required documents, it’s important to consult with an attorney to make sure you understand the legal rights and processes and exactly how the name change decision impacts you and your child,” Quick explains. “The next step is to file the notice and other documents needed for the name change with appropriate department; in some states this is a Clerk of Court, in other states, it requires an actual court file to be opened and a Judge to sign the name change order.”

While you can definitely file all of the paperwork yourself, a name change can have significant impacts on your child later in life if done improperly (more on that below), so it’s important to consult with an attorney or state official to make sure you’re completing every step of the process correctly. “The criteria and required documents can differ by state, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules where you live or consult with a professional who handles name changes,” says Quick.

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Is There A Time Limit To Change Your Baby’s Name?

When you take a newborn home, you probably won’t sleep for what feels like weeks on end, and especially if you’re a brand new parent, there’s a steep learning curve to caring for an infant. So, when you decide to change your baby’s name, it’s possible that multiple weeks have passed since their birth.

Legal name changes take time and there are many steps to the process, so you want to start as soon as you decide on a new name for your baby. “A name change has or can have broad impacts on many different areas of life, and the waiting period between each stage can be long,” Quick says. “Think months for the new birth certificate, then months for a new Social Security card, then even longer before you can obtain a passport in the new name.”

Quick tells Romper that time frames for name changes vary depending on where you live, so it’s important to speak with an attorney or your local authorities to see what the rules and regulations are. “In states such as North Carolina, a person is entitled to one birth name change in their lifetime. This gives parents the ability to change their baby/minor child’s name until the child is 18 years old,” Quick explains. “Similarly, some states have rules that require the child’s consent for a parent to change their name after a certain age.”

To avoid potential complications, you’ll want to make moves to change your baby’s name as soon as you realize that you want them to have a different legal moniker. “Generally speaking, if you are planning to change your child’s name, the sooner the better,” says Quick. “It will make things easier in the long run and will help you avoid complicating personal and legal issues in the future for both you and your child.”

What Happens After You Change Your Baby’s Name?

If you follow all of the rules and regulations for your state and complete a proper name change when your child is still a baby, there really shouldn’t be anything to worry about as time goes on. However, there could be repercussions later in life if the name change isn’t done properly or if you wait years to make everything legal.

“Other than a long list of aliases that will have to be listed on applications, a name change requires collateral documentation to also be changed to reflect the new name, such as Social Security cards and identification,” Quick tells Romper. “The older the child, the more documents there are to be changed. It’s not just the big things, it’s all the small things people don’t always think about — bank accounts, driver’s license, insurance policies, passports, school records, and anything else that requires a legal name.”

When traveling abroad, registering for school, or doing anything else where your baby’s legal name will need to be verified, their name change can become an issue if it’s not done properly. But, if you follow each step of the process carefully, you can absolutely change your little one’s name in those early days of babyhood without complication.


Carrie Quick, Attorney, Sodoma Law