Q&A: Can I make up a new surname for my baby?
I hate my last name! Instead of sticking Baby with my unsatisfactory surname, I’d like to make up a new one for myself and my child—a new last name for a new family. Is this legal? How do I go about it?
Although rules and procedures vary state by state, generally it’s not hard to obtain a name change as an adult. Depending on state laws, you will need to fill out paperwork and file a petition to a superior court, county probate court, or a district court. You may need to tell the judge your reasons for wishing to change your name, or take out an ad in the local newspaper to provide notification of the intended change. To expedite the process, first change your last name—preferably well in advance of Baby’s arrival—so that you have enough time to make the change on all of your legal documents, including your driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, passport, and insurance card. In the hospital, many babies, upon birth, are known and identified by their mother’s last names (i.e. Baby Boy Smith) until the birth certificate is completed.
In many states a baby’s surname is no longer restricted to that of the father in case of marriage, or to that of the mother, in the case of single parenthood. In the case of adoption or legitimization (i.e. changing a child’s surname to a stepfather’s), some states may require a copy of the parents’ marriage certificate and an affidavit of paternity.
Apart from the legalities, there is often an emotional response to a name change. Your relatives, or the baby’s father, may not understand your reasons for changing your last name and may feel excluded. As your child grows up, he or she will likely have many questions about the circumstances of his or her birth and how you came to decide upon a new name for him or her. Giving yourself and your baby a new last name does set you apart as a separate and special family. Remember, though, your actions to take a new last name does not preclude your child’s ability to change his or her surname later on. As an adult, Baby might very well decide that he or she wants a more authentic last name that ties into his history and heritage–and not one pulled out of thin air–and switch back to the original family surname