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Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change - One parent filing - Other parent will be served

 

These instructions explain the steps to change a child’s name if one parent is filing the request and the other parent will be served. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.  Just click on each step to expand with more information or forms.

Before getting started, read the Frequently Asked Questions included in this toolkit: I want to change my child’s name.

Important: These instructions provide general information and are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist. - Click here to PRINT Instructions

Or, to print both the instructions and forms click here.

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Step 1: Fill out your court forms.

Fill out these forms:

This form asks a judge to change your child’s name. You must sign this form under penalty of perjury. This means it is a crime to lie on this form.

Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.

Who is the petitioner?
You are the “petitioner” – the person asking the court to change the child’s name.

Who must be listed as a respondent in the Petition to Change the Name of a Child?
If you are the child’s parent, you must list the other parent as the “respondent.” If a nonparent has been named as your child’s managing conservator or legal guardian you must also list that person as a “respondent.”

If you are the child’s non-parent managing conservator or legal guardian, you must list both parents as “respondents.”

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 1-800-374-4673 for free advice.

What if a parent is dead?
If the other parent is dead and no other person has been named as your child’s managing conservator or legal guardian, use these instructions and forms to change your child’s name: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change - One parent filing - Other parent dead or rights terminated.

What if a parent’s parental rights were terminated?
If the other parent’s parental rights have been terminated by a court order and no other person has been named as your child’s managing conservator or legal guardian, use these instructions and forms to change your child’s name: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change - One parent filing - Other parent dead or rights terminated.

What if I can’t find the other parent? If you cannot find the other parent after looking really hard, you must have the other parent served by publication in a local newspaper. You must also hire a lawyer to serve as the other parent’s “attorney ad litem.” For more information read this article: Service by Publication (when you can't find the other parent). This process is complicated and can be expensive. If you can’t find the other parent, it’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer before going to the next step.

What if I don’t know the identity of the other parent?  
If you don’t know the identity of the other parent you must have the “unknown parent” served by publication in a newspaper. You must also hire a lawyer to serve as the unknown parent’s “attorney ad litem.” This process is complicated and can be expensive. If you don’t know the identity of a parent, it’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer before going to the next step.

You will ask the judge to sign this form to change the child’s name. Fill out all blanks except: 1) the date of judgment, 2) the judge’s signature and 3) the judge’s name.

You must also sign this form.  

Fill out this additional form if the child is 10 years old or older:

This form must be signed by your child if your child is 10 years old or older. It tells the judge that your child wants his or her name to be changed. Note: If your child is 10 years old or older, you cannot change your child’s name without his or her consent.

Fill out this additional form if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee for your case. Call the clerk’s office in the county where the child lives to learn the filing fee for your case.

TIP: It’s a good idea to have a lawyer review your forms after you fill them out. You can hire a lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” Use our Legal Help Finder tool to search for legal help in your area. Or, if your income is low, you may be able to have your completed forms reviewed at a free legal clinic. Use our Legal Clinic Calendar tool to search for a free legal clinic in your area.

Step 2: Make copies.

Make enough copies of each of the following forms to have one copy for you and one copy for each respondent:

  • your completed Petition to Change the Name of a Child, and
  • your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs (if you cannot afford the filing fee), and
  • the child’s completed Child’s Consent to Name Change (if the child is 10 or older).

You do not need copies of the Civil Case Information Sheet form, the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form, or the Order Changing the Name of a Child form.

Step 3: File (turn in) your Petition and other starting forms.

File (turn in) your completed court forms at the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives.  

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your completed court forms (and copies), except the Order Changing the Name of a Child form. Don’t turn in the Order form yet. You will present the Order form to the judge when it is time to finish your case.
  • Tell the clerk you want to have the other parent served in person. This means a sheriff, constable or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to the other parent in person.

Note: (If anyone else is listed as a respondent you must also have that person served, unless he or she agrees to the name change and will sign your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child and this form: Respondent’s Original Answer form.)

  • Pay the filing fee and issuance fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the court costs).
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give one copy back to you.
  • The clerk will print a form called a “citation.” The citation tells the other parent that you have filed a child name change case. The citation also tells the other parent that unless he or she files an answer with the court you will be able to finish your case by default - without the other parent. The clerk will attach a copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child to the citation. The citation with a copy of your Petition attached are the “initial court papers” that must be served on the other parent by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Read Step 4 for further instructions.
Step 4: Arrange for the other parent to be “served” with the initial court papers.

It is your responsibility to arrange for the other parent to be served with the initial court papers by a constable, sheriff or private process server. You CANNOT serve the initial court papers yourself.

What are the initial court papers? The initial court papers include the citation you got at the clerk’s office with a copy of your Petition attached.

Send the initial court papers to a constable, sheriff or private process server in the county where the other parent can be served. Include the service fee or a file-stamped copy of your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. (Call first to learn the fee.) Also include a self-addressed and stamped envelope.

The constable, sheriff or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to the other parent in person. The constable, sheriff or private process server will fill out a form called a “Return of Service.” It tells the court when and where the other parent was served. The completed Return of Service is proof the other parent was served. The other parent will not have to sign anything.

The Return of Service must be filed with the court. The constable, sheriff or private process server may file it themselves or they may give the completed Return of Service form to you. If they give it to you, make a copy and file the original at the courthouse. It must be on file for at least 10 days before you can finish your case, not counting the day it is filed or the day you go to court to finish your case.

What if I’m having trouble serving the other parent? For more information read this article: How to Serve the Initial Court Papers (Family Law). You can also use Ask a Question to chat with a law student or lawyer online.

Step 5: Wait the required waiting periods.

Wait the following required waiting periods:

  • 20 + day waiting period – From the day the other parent is served, the other parent must have at least 20 days plus the next Monday at 10 a.m. to file an answer with the court. Find the day the other parent was served on a calendar, count out 20 more days, then go to the next Monday. This is the last day of the other parent’s answer period. However, if the other parent files an answer at any time before you finish your case it will still count.
  • 10 + day waiting period – The constable, sheriff, private process server should have completed a Return of Service form stating when the other parent was served. The Return of Service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days before you can finish your case. Important: When counting the 10 day waiting period, do not count the day the Return of Service is filed with the court and do not count the day you go to court to finish your case.
Step 6: Determine if your case can be finished by default.

Call the clerk’s office to find out if the other parent filed an answer.

If the other parent filed an answer, you CANNOT finish your case by default.

  • If the other parent filed an answer and will now agree to sign your completed proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child form, you can finish your case by agreement.
  • If the other parent filed an answer and will not agree to sign your completed Order Changing the Name of a Child form, your case is contested. To finish a contested case, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give the other parent at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. If there are other respondents they must also receive this notice. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

If the other parent has NOT filed an answer, you CAN finish your case by default (without the other parent) as long as all of the following are true.

  • The other parent was successfully served by a constable, sheriff or private process server. and
  • A Return of Service form (stating when and where the other parent was served) has been on file with the clerk’s office for at least 10 days (not counting the day it was filed or the day you go to court). and
  • The 20 + day waiting period for the other parent to file an answer has passed. and
  • The other parent has not filed an answer and does not file an answer before you finish your case. (Remember, the other parent can file an answer up until the time you finish your case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.) and
  • If anyone else was named as a respondent in your Petition to Change the Name of a Child:
    • that respondent was also served and defaulted (did not file an answer with the court),

             or

  • that respondent signed a Respondent’s Original Answer form and your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child form showing he or she agrees to the name change.

If you CAN finish your case by default, fill out these additional forms and make 1 copy of each form:

Step 7: Get ready for court.

If you can finish your case by default, call the clerk’s office to find out when and where the court hears uncontested child name change cases.

Call the clerk’s office again the day before you plan to go to court to make sure the other parent has still not filed an answer. If the other parent has filed an answer, you cannot finish your case by default. Go back to Step 6.

Read the article: TIPS for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.

Step 8: Go to court to finish your case.

Bring the following documents with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:

  • your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child, and
  • a file-stamped copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child, and
  • a file-stamped copy of the Child’s Consent to Name Change (if applicable), and
  • a file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where the other parent was served, and
  • a completed Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address form and 1 copy, and
  • if you are not the child’s parent, a copy of the court order naming you as the child’s managing conservator or legal guardian.

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • Ask the clerk to check one more time to see if the other parent has filed an answer. If the other parent has filed an answer, you cannot finish your case by default. Go back to Step 6.
  • File the Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address and the Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit). Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy of each form. Bring a file-stamped copy of each form with you to court.

When you get to the courtroom, tell the judge’s clerk you are there. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Tell the judge your name and whether you are the child’s parent or the child’s nonparent managing conservator or legal guardian. Tell the judge you are asking that the child’s name be changed. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge why you think changing the child’s name is in the child’s best interest.

The judge will listen to what you say and review your forms. If everything is in order and the judge agrees that changing the child’s name would be in the child’s best interest, the judge will sign your Order Changing the Name of a Child.

Step 9: File the signed Order with the clerk.

After the judge signs your Order Changing the Name of a Child, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the signed Order Changing the Name of a Child. Your case is NOT final until you do so.
  • Get several certified copies of the Order from the clerk. You must pay a small fee for each certified copy. You will need certified copies of the Order to change the child’s name on the child’s social security card, birth certificate, passport, school records, etc. Each agency will want a certified copy of the Order to keep. You will also want a certified copy of the Order for your records.
Step 10: After your case is finished.

You are responsible for notifying the appropriate agencies of the child’s new name.

  • To change the child’s social security card, contact your local social security office.
  • To change your child’s Texas birth certificate, contact the Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Statistics Unit. Read about birth certificate amendments and get the application here. If your child was born in another state, contact the vital statistics office in that state.

  • To change the child’s passport, contact your local passport office.
  • To change the child’s school records, take a certified copy of the Order to the child’s school.