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I want to change my child's name.

Name Change of a Child

How to legally change the name of a child under 18. For parents and guardians.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

This guide tells you how to change a child’s name.

Common questions about Name Change of a Child

You must get a court order to legally change your child’s name. You can ask a judge to make a court order by filing a child name change case. Get instructions and do-it-yourself child name change forms here: I want to change my child’s name.

It is possible to make minor corrections to a child’s first or middle name without a court order. Read about birth certificate amendments and get the application here.

A child name change case can be filed by the child’s parent, managing conservator or legal guardian.

File your child name change case at the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives.

Contact the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives to learn the filing fee for your case. If you have a low-income, you can ask the Court to waive the filing fee by completing and filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. Learn more here: Court Fees and Fee Waivers.

Yes. You must tell the other parent that you want to change your child’s name (unless the other parent’s parental rights have been terminated).

If the other parent agrees to the name change, you can file the request together.

If the other parent does not agree to the name change, you must have the other parent served with legal notice of the case by a constable, sheriff or private process server.

The other parent must get legal notice of your child name change case even if the other parent is not listed on your child’s birth certificate.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

These instructions explain the steps to change your child’s name if you and the child’s other parent agree to file the request for name change together. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step. 

Use these instructions if:

  • The child has (or children have) two living parents whose parental rights have not been terminated, who both agree to the name change and will sign the necessary court forms.

Do not use these instructions if:

  • There are any non-parent court ordered relationships for the children.

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Visit the Legal Help Directory or Working with a Private Attorney for more information.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist.

To print out both the instructions and forms, click here.

Checklist Steps

Fill out these forms:

  • Petition to Change the Name of a Child
    • This form asks the judge to change your child’s name. You and your child’s other parent must sign this form under penalty of perjury. This means it is a crime to lie on this form.
    • You are the “Petitioner.” The child’s other parent is the “Co-Petitioner.”
    • Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • Order Changing the Name of a Child
    • You will ask the judge to sign this form to change your child’s name. You must fill it out before going to court. Fill out all blanks except:
    • 1) the date of judgment,
    • 2) the judge’s signature, and
    • 3) the judge’s name.
    • This form must also be signed by both you and the other parent.

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

  • Child’s Consent to Name Change (For Child Age 10 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.

Make one copy of each of the following:

  • your completed Petition to Change the Name of a Child (signed by both you and the other parent), and
  • your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs (if you cannot afford the filing fee), and
  • your child’s completed Child’s Consent to Name Change (if your 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.

File (turn in) your completed forms at the district clerk’s office in the county where your 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 you go to court.
  • Pay the filing fee or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child and other forms. (Write these numbers at the top of your Order Changing the Name of a Child form.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the originals and give you back your copies.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case. For example, there might be standing orders in your county that need to be attached to your petition.

Ask the clerk when you can present your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child to a judge. You may be able to present your proposed order to a judge that day. Or you may have to come back another day.

Go to court to finish your case. Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court.

When you get to the courtroom, tell the judge’s clerk you are there and give the clerk the following documents:

  • your completed proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child (signed by both you and the other parent), and
  • the file-stamped copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child, and
  • the file-stamped copy of the Child’s Consent to Name Change (if applicable).

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 that you and your child’s other parent are asking that your child’s name be changed. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge why you think changing your child’s name is in your 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 your child’s name would be in your child’s best interest, the judge will sign your Order Changing the Name of a Child.

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 Changing the Name of a Child from the clerk. You must pay a small fee for each certified copy. You will need certified copies of the Order to change your child’s name on your 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.

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

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

 

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

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.  

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Visit the Legal Help Directory or Working with a Private Attorney for more information.

To print out both the instructions and forms, click here.

Checklist Steps

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, on the state's public information web site, or both. 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, 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, on the state's service by publication web site, or both. 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, 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 Directory 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 Events and Clinics to search for a free legal clinic in your area. 

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.

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.

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.

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, or 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.

 

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.
  • WARNING! In suits filed on or after January 1, 2021, once a party to a family law case (like a custody modification case) files an answer, both sides usually will be obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days. Talk to a lawyer about exceptions to this rule. The form is here: Required Initial Disclosures.

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;
  • 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);
  • The 20 + day waiting period for the other parent to file an answer has passed;
  • 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:

  1. WARNING! Effective January 1, 2021, once a party to a family law case (like a custody modification case) files an answer, both sides usually will be obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days. Talk to a lawyer about exceptions to this rule. The form is here: Required Initial Disclosures in SAPCRs and Modifications.

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.

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. 

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.

 

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. 

 

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

 

These instructions explain the steps to change a child’s name if you are the child’s parent and:

  • the other parent is dead OR the other parent’s parental rights were terminated by a court and
  • no other person has a court ordered relationship with the child.

You can also use these instructions and forms if you are the child’s nonparent sole managing conservator or legal guardian and:

  • both parents are either 1) dead or 2) had their parental rights terminated by a court and
  • no other person has a court ordered relationship with the child.

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Visit the Legal Help Directory or Working with a Private Attorney for more information.

To print out both the instructions and forms, click here.

Checklist Steps

Fill out these forms:

This form asks a judge to change a child’s name. You must sign this form under penalty of perjury. This means you could be charged with a crime if you 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. Note: You MUST be a parent or nonparent managing conservator or legal guardian to ask for a child’s name to be changed.

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 a respondent. If you are a non-parent managing conservator or legal guardian of the child, you must list both parents as respondents.

Important: Do no use these instructions if anyone else has a court ordered relationship with the child.

What if a parent is dead?
If a parent is dead, you will check the box that says the parent is deceased and attach a copy of the parent’s death certificate. (Keep the original death certificate. You will need it when you go to court.)

What if a parent’s parental rights were terminated?
If a parent’s parental rights were terminated, check the box that says the parent’s parental rights were terminated and attach a copy of a certified copy of the court order that terminated the parent’s rights. (Note: Keep the actual certified copy of the court order. You will need it when you go to court.)

What if I don’t know the identity of the other parent?  
Do NOT use these instructions if you don’t know the identity of a parent. Use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change - One parent filing - Other parent will be served. You must have the “Unknown Father” served by publication.

What if I can’t find the other parent? 
Do NOT use these instructions if you can’t find a parent. Use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change - One parent filing - Other parent will be served. If you can’t find a parent, you must have the parent served by publication.

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 the child if the child is 10 years old or older. It tells the judge that the child wants his or her name to be changed. Note: If the child is 10 years old or older and does not want a name change, you can’t change his or her name.

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 Directory 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 Events and Clinics to search for a free legal clinic in your area. 

Make one copy of the following forms:

  • 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.

File (turn in) your completed forms at the district clerk’s office in the county where your 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.
  • Pay the filing fee or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child and other forms. (Write these numbers at the top of your Order Changing the Name of a Child form.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.
  • Ask the clerk when you can present your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child to a judge. You may be able to present your proposed order to a judge that day. Or you may have to come back another day.

Go to court to finish your case. Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.

When you get to the courtroom, tell the judge’s clerk you are there and give the clerk the following documents:

  • your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child, and
  • the file-stamped copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child, and
  • the file-stamped copy of the Child’s Consent to Name Change (if applicable), and
  • if a parent is dead, the parent’s death certificate, and
  • if a parent’s parental rights were terminated, your certified copy of the court order terminating the parent’s rights, 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.

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 who you are 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.

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.
  • File the completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form.

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.

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the basic steps for a nonparent conservator to ask a court to change a child’s name when the child has parents, another conservator, or legal guardian who will not agree to sign the necessary court papers. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.

Use these instructions if you are the child’s non-parent conservator and the child has:

  • a living parent or parents whose parental rights have not been terminated who will not agree to the name change and sign the necessary court forms, or
  • a court appointed conservator or legal guardian who will not agree to the name change and sign the necessary court forms.

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Visit the Legal Help Directory or Working with a Private Attorney for more information.

 

Checklist Steps

Fill out the following starting forms:

This form asks the judge to change a child’s name that you are a conservator of. 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. Talk with a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

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 (800) 374-4673, or Crime Victims at (844) 303-7233 for free advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who are the petitioner and respondent?
    • In a case to change a child's last name, the petitioner is the person asking the court to change the child’s name.

      Who is the respondent? The petition must list the child’s living parents (whose rights have not been terminated) as the respondent. Anyone else who has been named by a court as the child’s managing conservator or legal guardian must also be listed as a respondent.

  • What if a parent is dead?
    • If, when you are going to court to change the last name of a child and either of the child’s parents are dead, check the box in the Original Petition to Change Child's Name that says a parent is deceased, and attach a copy of the parent’s death certificate. Keep the original death certificate. You will need it when you go to court.
  • What if a parent’s parental rights were terminated?​​​​​​​
    • What if a parent’s parental rights were terminated?

      If either of the parent’s parental rights have been terminated by a court order, check the box that says the parent’s parental rights were terminated and attach a copy of a certified copy of the court order that terminated the parent’s rights. (Note: Keep the actual certified copy of the court order. You will need it when you go to court.).

  • What if I can’t find the child’s parent(s), conservator or legal guardian?
    • ​​​​​​​

      If you cannot find the child’s parents, conservators, or legal guardians after looking really hard, you must have them served legal guardian by publication in a local newspaper. You must also hire a lawyer to serve as the parents’, conservators', or legal guardian’s attorney ad litem.

      For more information see Service by Publication. This process is complicated and can be expensive. If you can’t find the child’s parents, conservators, or legal guardians, it’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer before going to the next step.

  • What if I don’t know who the child’s parents are?
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​If you don’t know the identity of the child’s parents you must have the “unknown parent(s)” served by publication in a newspaper. You must also hire a lawyer to serve as the unknown parent(s)’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.

Fill out these additional starting forms:

Fill out this additional starting form if the child is 10 years of age or older. Note: If the child is 10 years old or older, you cannot change the child’s name without his or her consent.

Fill out this additional starting form if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee for your case. Call the district or county clerk’s office to learn the filing fee for your case. Learn more here: Court Fees and Fee Waivers.

Make copies:

Fill out the following ending forms:

You will ask the judge to sign this Order form to change the child’s name. You must fill it out before going to court.

Fill it out completely except:

  • The date of the judgment;
  • Section 1, Appearances (wait to fill this section out until you arrive at the courthouse the day of the hearing);
  • Section 2, Record (the Court fills this section out);
  • The judge’s signature; and
  • The judge’s name.

Tip: It’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. You can hire a lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

File (turn in) your completed Petition and additional starting forms with the district court clerk (or county court clerk, depending on the specific county) in the county where the child lives.

Note: Check with the clerk of the court in the county where the child lives to learn which court in the county hears name change cases. Depending on the county, name changes may be heard in the district court or county court.

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your forms in person, take the Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district or county clerk’s office in the county you determined is the correct county to file for the name change.  

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies). Don’t turn in the form for the order yet. You will present the order to the judge when it is time to finish your case.
     
  • Tell the clerk you want to have everyone listed as a respondent served in person. This means a sheriff, constable or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to each respondent in person. (Remember: If every respondent will agree to the name change and to sign the necessary court forms, you do not need to have the respondents served. Follow the instructions in the checklist below instead: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change – Nonparent Conservators, Parents, Other Conservator, or Legal Guardian Agree to File Together (Set E).
     
  • Pay the filing fee and issuance fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond if you cannot afford the fees). You can call the clerk’s office ahead of time to learn the amount of fees for your case.
     
  • 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 or procedures you need to know about for your case.
     
  • The clerk will write your cause number and court number at the top of the first page of your petition.  (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your case.)
     
  • The clerk will file stamp your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the originals and give you back your copies.
     
  • The clerk will print a form called a citation. The citation tells each respondent that you have filed for a name change for the child that you are conservator of. The citation also tells each respondent that unless he or she files an answer with the court you will be able to finish your case by default (without the respondent). The clerk will attach the other copy of your petition to the citation. The citation plus a copy of your petition attached to it are the “initial court papers” that must be served on each respondent by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Read Step 3 for instructions.

You must have the child’s living parents (whose parental rights have not been terminated), conservators, and legal guardians (each respondent) served with the initial court papers. You cannot serve the initial court papers yourself.

To have the respondents served in person:

The constable, sheriff or private process server will:

  • give the initial court papers to each respondent,
  • complete a Return of Service form that says when and where each respondent was served,
  • send the completed Return of Service to you or the court.

The completed Return of Service is proof that each respondent was served. The child’s parents or other conservator or legal guardian will not have to sign anything.

If any Return of Service is sent to you, file it at the clerk’s office. Each Return of Service 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.

Note: Getting each respondent served in person is best. However, there are other ways to get someone served. To learn about more, read: How to Serve the Initial Court Papers. If you have questions, you can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer or law student online.

Wait the waiting periods that apply to your case.

  • 20 + day waiting period – From the day each respondent is served, that respondent must have at least 20 days plus the next Monday at 10:00 a.m. to file an Answer.  Find the day each respondent was served on a calendar, count out 20 more days, then go to the next Monday. Each respondent must have until this date to file an answer.  If each respondent does not file an answer by this date (and all other requirements have been met) you can finish your case by default without the respondents.  Note: Any respondent can file an answer up until the time you finish your case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.
     
  • 10 + day waiting period - The constable, sheriff, or private process server should have completed a Return of Service form stating when each respondent was served. The Return of Service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days for each respondent 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.

Call the clerk’s office to find out if any respondent filed an answer.

Default means you have the respondents served with the initial court papers and the respondents do not file an answer with the court. If every respondent was served and defaults (does not file an answer with the court), you can finish the case without the respondents.

If any respondent that filed an answer will not agree to sign your Order Changing the Name of a Child, you cannot finish your case by default. Your case is contested. Skip to Step 8.

Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

If every respondent that filed an answer will now agree to sign your completed Order Changing the Name of a Child, you can finish your case by agreement with that respondent, with these instructions: Instructions & Forms for Child Name Change – Nonparent Conservators, Parents, or Legal Guardians Agree to File Together (Set E) below this checklist. You can also finish the case by default for the other respondents that did not file an answer using the instructions below.  Important: Talk with a lawyer if you have questions.

For each respondent that has NOT filed an answer, you CAN finish your case by default as long as all of the following are true.

Each respondent was successfully served by a constable, sheriff or private process server.

A Return of Service form (stating when and where each respondent 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).

The 20 + day waiting period for each respondent to file an answer has passed.

No respondent has filed an answer and does not file an answer before you finish your case. (Remember, any respondent can file an answer up until the time you finish your case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.)

Any other respondent in your case that DID file an answer signed 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 for each respondent that did not file an answer and make 1 copy of each form:

●             Certificate of Last Known Address

                ●             Military Status Declaration (If your case is filed in Harris County, fill out a Military Status Affidavit instead. Sign it in front of a notary.)

                ●             Statement of Evidence (only if a respondent was served by Publication)

Call the clerk’s office to find out when and where the court hears uncontested name change cases.

 

Call the clerk’s office again the day before you plan to go to court to make sure the respondents still have not filed an answer.  If a respondent has filed an answer, you cannot finish your case by default. Skip to Step 8.

 

You must give testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your case. This is sometimes called “prove-up” testimony. You will testify about each of the points in your petition form.

 

Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct.  You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.

 

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

Bring these papers to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:

  • A file-stamped copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child.
  •  A file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where each respondent was served.
  • A file-stamped copy of the Child’s Consent to Name Change (if applicable).
  • A proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child completely filled out and signed by you.
  • A completed Certificate of Last Known Address form for each respondent that did not file an answer and 1 copy.
  • A completed Declaration of Military Status (or Affidavit of Military Status) for each respondent that did not file answer and 1 copy.
  • If a respondent was served by publication, a completed Statement of the Evidence for that respondent and the lawyer you hired to serve as attorney ad litem for the respondent.

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

  • Ask the clerk to check one more time to see if a respondent that did not file an answer has now filed an answer. If a respondent has now filed an answer, you will not be able to finish your case by default. Skip to Step 8.
  • Tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork.
  • File the Certificate of Last Known Address and the Declaration of Military Status (or Affidavit of Military Status) for each respondent that did not file an answer. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy of each form. Bring a file-stamped copy of each form with you to court.

Go to the courtroom and wait 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 ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Tell the judge that you are asking the court to change the child’s name. 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. To finish your case by default, skip to Step 9.

To finish a contested case, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give the respondent that filed an answer at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Follow the contested hearing steps below if your case is contested:

Step 1: Print a Notice of Final Hearing form: Notice of Final Hearing (Any Family Case)

Step 2: Learn when the judge schedules contested final hearings. Call the clerk’s office to learn what days and times the judge in your county schedules contested final hearings. It will help you to know your options before moving to Contested Hearing Step.

Step 3: Talk to the other side (if possible). In most counties, you must make a reasonable effort to talk with the other side and agree on a final hearing date. If the other side has a lawyer, talk with the lawyer.

If the other side will not agree to a hearing date, that’s okay. You just have to make a reasonable effort.

Important! If you are concerned about your safety, call the Family Violence Legal Line at (800) 374-4673 or Crime Victims at (844) 303-7233 for free advice before talking with the other side.

WARNING! If a judge has signed a Protective Order ordering you not to contact the other side, do not violate that order. Talk with a lawyer about your options.

 Step 4: Schedule the final hearing.

Call the clerk’s office. Tell the clerk you want to set your case for a contested final hearing. Ask for a hearing date that is at least 60 days away. (Remember, the other side must receive a copy of your Notice of Final Hearing form at least 45 days before the date of the final hearing.) Be prepared to tell the clerk how much time you think the hearing will take for both you and the other side. Talk with a lawyer about how much time to estimate for your hearing. The judge will usually limit you to your estimated time.

The clerk will give you a date and time for the hearing.

Step 5: Fill out the Notice of Final Hearing form. Fill out the form completely in blue or black ink and sign it. Remember to:

  • write in the date and time of the hearing,
  • write in the full physical address of the court where the hearing will be held,
  • write in how much time you estimate the hearing will take for both you and the other side,
  • fill out and sign the Certificate of Service, and
  • sign the Certificate of Conference if you made a “reasonable effort” to talk with the other side about the hearing date.

Note: The Notice of Final Hearing asks for your address. The other side will get a copy of this form. If you are concerned about the other side knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 1-800-374-4673 for free advice.

Step 6: Make copies of the Notice of Final Hearing form. Make a copy of your completed Notice of Final Hearing form for each person named as a party in your case, including yourself.  

Step 7: File the Notice of Final Hearing form.

File (turn-in) your completed Notice of Final Hearing form (and copies) at the clerk’s office.

The clerk will “file-stamp” your forms with the date and time and return the copies to you.

Tell the clerk if you want a sheriff, constable or private process server to serve the Notice of Final Hearing on the other side.

Tip: Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures that apply to your case. For example you may need to file pretrial forms or attend mediation before you can finish your case. Each county has different rules.

Step 8: Send a file-stamped copy of the Notice of Final Hearing to the other side. You must send a file-stamped copy of the Notice of Final Hearing to each person (or agency) named as a party in your case. If the other side has a lawyer, send it to the lawyer. Send the Notice of Final Hearing by:

  • Constable, sheriff or private process server. (This is best, if the other side doesn’t have a lawyer). If you arranged for a constable, sheriff or private process server to serve the Notice of Final Hearing, the officer will fill out and sign a Return of Service form. Make a copy of the Return of Service form and file the original at the clerk’s office. Ask the clerk to “file-stamp” your copy. This is your proof.   
  • Certified mail, return receipt requested and regular mail. If you sent the Notice of Final Hearing by certified mail, return receipt requested, keep the white receipt as proof that you mailed it. Keep the green return receipt card as proof that the other party received it. The green card should be signed by the other party. The white receipt and green card are your proof.
  • Fax. If you sent the Notice of Final Hearing by fax, the fax confirmation page is your proof; 
  • Email. If you sent the Notice of Final Hearing by email, print the email, and any emails you receive in response from the other party. The emails are your proof.
  • commercial delivery service (such as FedEx or UPS). If you sent the Notice of Final Hearing by commercial delivery (such as FedEx or UPS), the receipt signed by the commercial delivery service is your proof.     

Step 9: Get ready for court.

Talk with a lawyer to learn how to get ready for your contested hearing. You must give testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your case. You will testify about each of the points in your petition form. Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.

Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court.

Every hearing is different. Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

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

File (turn in) the Order Changing the Name of a Child signed by the judge. Your case is not final until you do so.

Get at least five certified copies of the Order Changing the Name of a Child signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk will charge a fee for the certified copies. 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.

You are responsible for notifying the appropriate agencies of the child’s new name. Take a certified copy of the Order Changing Name of a Child to the following agencies:

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.

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the steps to change children’s names if you and the children’s other parents, conservators, or legal guardians agree to file the request for name change together. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step. 

Use these instructions if:

  • The children have a living parent or parents (whose parental rights have not been terminated), or court-appointed conservators, or legal guardians who will agree to the name change and sign the necessary court forms.

Do not use these instructions if:

  • Any parties disagree about the name change of the children. 

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Visit the Legal Help Directory or Working with a Private Attorney for more information.

Checklist Steps

Fill out these forms:

  • Petition to Change the Name of a Child (Set E)
    • This form asks the judge to change your child’s name. You and your child’s other parent must sign this form under penalty of perjury. This means it is a crime to lie on this form.
    • You are the “Petitioner.” The child’s other parent is the “Co-Petitioner.”
    • Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • Order Changing the Name of a Child (Set E)
    • You will ask the judge to sign this form to change your child’s name. You must fill it out before going to court. Fill out all blanks except:
    • 1) the date of judgment,
    • 2) the judge’s signature, and
    • 3) the judge’s name.
    • This form must also be signed by both you and the other parent.

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

  • Child’s Consent to Name Change (For Child Age 10 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.

Make one copy of each of the following:

  • your completed Petition to Change the Name of a Child (signed by you, the other parents, the other conservators, and the other legal guardians), 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.

File (turn in) your completed forms at the district clerk’s office in the county where your 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 you go to court.
  • Pay the filing fee or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child and other forms. (Write these numbers at the top of your Order Changing the Name of a Child form.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the originals and give you back your copies.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.

Ask the clerk when you can present your proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child to a judge. You may be able to present your proposed order to a judge that day. Or you may have to come back another day.

Go to court to finish your case. Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court.

When you get to the courtroom, tell the judge’s clerk you are there and give the clerk the following documents:

  • your completed proposed Order Changing the Name of a Child (signed by you, the other parents, conservators, and legal guardians), and
  • the file-stamped copy of your Petition to Change the Name of a Child, and
  • the file-stamped copy of the Child’s Consent to Name Change (if applicable).

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 that you and your child’s other parent are asking that the child’s name be changed. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge why you think changing your child’s name is in your 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 your child’s name would be in your child’s best interest, the judge will sign your Order Changing the Name of a Child.

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 Changing the Name of a Child from the clerk. You must pay a small fee for each certified copy. You will need certified copies of the Order to change your child’s name on your 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.

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 the 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.

Forms Required

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