Oftentimes, in family law cases, one parent wants to change his or her child’s last name. The reasons for wanting a name change are varied. Maybe you had your child out of wedlock, he only has Mom’s last name, and you want him to share your last name as well.  Or maybe, after a divorce, a child’s last name is that of a parent that is no longer in her life. Whatever the reason, there is a specific process to request a name change for a minor child.

The Court has the ability to change a child’s name pursuant to the divorce or an allocation of parental responsibilities case. Although there is no specific law giving the Court the power to change a child’s name in a divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities case, the Appellate Court has ruled that “The trial court has the power, founded in the common law, to order a change of name of a minor child…” In re Marriage of Nguyen, 684 P.2d 258 (Colo. App. 1983).

Another way to obtain a name change for your child would be to file a Petition for a Name Change pursuant to §13-15-101, C.R.S.   If your child is over the age of fourteen, he or she will also need to get a fingerprint based criminal background check prior to filing the Petition.

After the Petition is filed, a hearing will be set for the Court to determine if the name change is in the best interests of the minor child.   A court has wide discretion in ordering a change of name and should not deny an application unless special circumstances were found to exist. Hammon v. County of Jefferson, 753 P.2d 743 (Colo. 1988).

The Court can consider a number of factors to determine if a name change is in the best interests of a minor child as follows:

  • Motivation of the parent wanting to obtain the name change
  • Length of time the child has used current surname
  • Impact of requested name change on mother-child relationship and father-child relationship
  • Identification of child as part of a family unit
  • Embarrassment, discomfort, or inconvenience that may result if the child’s surname differs from the custodial parent
  • Possibility different name change may cause insecurity or lack of identity
  • Cultural considerations and the child’s identity with his or her heritage
  • Misconduct by parent which would justify a name change*

The Court, after hearing the testimony of the parents, and reviewing any exhibits and the case file, will either grant or deny the name change request. If the Court grants the name change request, you must publish the order in a newspaper, three times within a period twenty-one days. Once notice is given by publication, the Court will enter a decree of name change for your child.

Finally, in order to complete the process, you must fill out a Report of Paternity with the Department of Vital Statistics so the birth certificate may be changed. Sometimes these steps can be complicated to complete; you may want to consult with an attorney before starting the name change process.

(*For more information on what the court reviews to determine if a name change is in the child’s best interest please review the following cases: Hammon v. County of Jefferson, 753 P.2d 743 (Colo. 1988); In Interest of T.I.E., 981 P.2d 649 (Colo. App. 1998); In re Matter of D.K.W., 807 P.2d 1222 (Colo. App. 1990))