Change a Birth Certificate: The Complete Guide
While most people might be used to thinking of birth certificates as unalterable legal documents, there are some circumstances in which you can make changes. We put together this guide to answer the frequently asked questions about amending a birth certificate to correct mistakes, change the name of a parent, adopt a child, make a gender change and more.
Since each state has its own rules about changing birth certificates, you’ll need to do some research to find out what procedures and documents are needed. The place to find out is your city, county, or state Office of Vital Records. Some have the information on their website, while others will require you to call or visit in person to get the information you need.
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What Are Common Types of Allowable Changes?
This is the most common reason to get a birth certificate changed, whether it’s because parents had second thoughts about a first name or a change of family situation. If it’s for a child who’s under the age of 1, your state may allow changes to be made without needing to go through the courts. An older child or adult name change, on the other hand, will likely require a more lengthy process. Of course, changing a name for a common reason like marriage wouldn’t require alteration of the person’s birth certificate.
Correction of Errors
While care is taken in the process of preparing them, birth certificates sometimes make it to the final version with errors. Common mistakes include misspelled names, wrong birthdates or gender, and incorrect place of birth or parent information. These errors are generally pretty easy and quick to fix.
Change of Parent Information
If the incorrect parent was listed on the birth certificate, this can be changed, but it will take some doing. Because this is considered a legal change, your state will likely require a court order.
Change of Gender
The majority of states today will amend birth certificates to reflect a different gender for transgendered individuals. You will generally need to provide proof of sex being changed by surgical procedure.
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How Can I Change My Name on a Birth Certificate?
A birth certificate is the official record of your birth, and is the basis for all of the rest of your official identification. So when a major change is made in your life, such as a name change, then you might want to make sure that your birth certificate can still connect back to you.
The exact process will vary depending on your location. States, counties, and even cities will have different procedures. Regardless of the location, changing the name on your birth certificate is a major legal action, and will require a court order.
Why Change Your Birth Certificate Name
Just because you changed you name doesn’t mean that you need to change your birth certificate. For example, you don’t need to change your birth certificate if your name was changed due to a divorce or a marriage. In fact, many states won’t allow you to change your birth certificate under these circumstances.
That being said, there are several times when states will change your birth certificate. Usually, this is when you have undergone a legal name change with a court order, such as after adoption or gender reassignment surgery. These are significant enough changes that your official record should be updated.
The Basic Order for Changing Your Name
The specific requirements will vary depending on where you are, but the name change process tends to have the same care parts.
Step 1: Petition for Name Change
Filing the petition is usually in the form of submitting an application with the court’s clerk. Part of the process usually includes public notice in a newspaper or other forum. Sometimes the clerk’s office will take care of this for you, other times you need to run the notice yourself and get verification from the paper.
When you submit the completed petition, you will get a court date.
Step 2: Appear in Court
On your court date, you’ll make your case to the judge for your name change. If everything seems in order, then you’ll get an official court order to change your name. Ensure that you get a certified copy with the official seal and the judge’s signature.
There are many places that you’ll have to inform, and one of those is the department of records.
Step 3: File an Amendment
Take that certified court order to the department of records or equivalent department in your local jurisdiction. What you get back will change depending on the state. Some will issue a replacement birth certificate with the new name, and possibly gender, while others will issue an amended birth certificate.
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Can a Father’s Name Be Changed?
One of the most common changes that people make on a birth certificate is adding, removing, or replacing the child’s father’s name. While specific procedures vary from state to state, here are some general guidelines for this kind of change.
Adding a Father’s Name
If the line for the father’s name was left blank originally on the birth certificate, it’s usually pretty easy to make this change. Most states have a provision for doing this in certain cases without the need to go to court.
The exact procedures vary depending on the state, but a common requirement is to produce proof of paternity in the form of a DNA test. Some states may allow a voluntary declaration of paternity that includes a notarized form signed by both parents.
If the father to be added to the birth certificate isn’t available to sign, refuses to sign, or is deceased, you will probably have to go to court and present the facts of the case to get the birth certificate changed.
Changing Father’s Name
In cases where the paternity of the child is uncertain, there’s a possibility for mistakes on the birth certificate. When it’s discovered at a later date that the father named isn’t actually the biological father, a change to the birth certificate can be requested.
Replacing one name with another usually requires either a copy of a court order naming the actual biological father or an affidavit signed by the child’s mother, the child’s father, and the man previously listed as the father on the original birth certificate.
Removing Father’s Name
Under certain circumstances, the man who’s named on the original birth certificate can be removed. One of these is if you can produce a DNA test or other evidence that he’s not actually the father, although this will require the judgement of the court.
Another situation in which the actual father’s name can be removed is when his rights have been completely terminated by a court. In this case, the mother of the child can decide whether to remove the father’s name or leave it on the birth certificate.
When a child is adopted, the usual procedure is to issue an amended birth certificate. This can have the same information as the original, but it will replace the names of the birth parents with the names of the adoptive parents and the child’s original name with the new name (if it was changed). The original birth certificate is then sealed by the court.
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Can a Mother’s Name Be Removed?
Since a birth certificate is considered a factual representation of the events surrounding a child’s birth, removing the mother from the document isn’t usually allowed. There are a few situations where the mother’s information on a birth certificate may be changed or amended, however.
It sometimes happens that a child is abandoned or left with the police, in which case the mother’s name won’t be known. In this case, “Jane Doe” will be entered in place of the mother’s name on the birth certificate. If the mother’s name is discovered in the future, it’s possible to have the certificate updated with the correct name.
When a child is adopted, an amended birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents’ names in place of the parents listed on the original birth certificate. This original document is then sealed and made unavailable to the child in the future.
There are sometimes cases where an adult adoption can take place which allows for a birth certificate change, but this depends on the laws of the state. Some states will allow for an amendment to be filed with the office of vital records, but will keep the original birth certificate with the birth mother’s name.
Termination of Rights
When a father has gone to court and successfully terminated the mother’s parental rights, there may be cause to remove the mother’s name from the child’s birth certificate. The laws of the state where the termination occurs will determine whether this is possible.
Correction of Errors
A mistake in the spelling of the mother’s name should always be corrected as soon as possible. If the names are spelled differently on various official documents, this may cause problems when applying for a passport or visa in the future. It’s usually fairly easy to correct this kind of error, and most states allow for this without the need to go to court.
There isn’t any need to change the birth certificate if the mother’s name changes after the child is born. Birth certificates ask for the mother’s name at birth (or maiden name) for just this reason. While her name can potentially change many times due to marriages, divorces, and other legal name changes, her maiden name will remain the same.
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Can I Change the Name of a Child?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to change the name of your child on a birth certificate. Perhaps you want to give them your new last name, or you simply made a mistake with the name that you chose. It most situations it is possible to change the name on a birth certificate, but the reason you’re changing it and what your changing will determine how complicated it gets.
These laws and procedures will vary from state to state and even within different counties, so make sure that you check with your local department of records.
Changing When the Child Is Under One Year Old
In most states, the easiest time to change the birth certificate is in the first year after the child was born. Many changes, including the first name or last name, can be done without a court order using a form that you file with your local department of records.
Changing the Name for an Older Child
Once a child gets above a certain age, all changes to their name on the birth certificate will require a legal name change. The general exception is when they get married, which won’t be an issue until they’re an adult. The exact procedure of a name change varies from state to state, but it generally follows a similar path:
- A petition is filed for a name change with the local court. This may include public notification of the name change.
- After a hearing, a judge grants a court order for the name change.
- The court order and other documents are filed with a form to change the birth certificate.
Fixing an Error or Misspelling
Usually these are caught in the first year, and are easy to change. If not, then it depends whether the first name or last name is misspelled. Either way, if you get the right documents in front of the right department, this can be cleared up pretty easily.
Changing the Last Name
Need to completely change the last name of a child? In almost all states this is considered a legal name change, which means that it must be done by a court order. A big reason for this is because changing a last name can also change the parentage of the child. In order to do this, you’ll need to follow the procedure to complete a full legal name change like above.
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Can I Correct a Misspelled or Missing Name?
Let’s face it: mistakes happen. While the people who prepare birth certificates take great care in filling out all of the necessary forms, they are still human. Once there is a mistake, then it needs to be fixed, and how that happens depends on the local laws and the nature of the mistake. In some states this counts as a full legal change, while others make it very easy to amend birth certificates.
Changes Within the First Year
In most states or counties, changing the birth certificate within the first year after birth is made much easier because it doesn’t require a court order. All you have to do is bring the right forms and documents to the records department to have the change made. What you need will vary depending on the location, so be sure the double check.
Correcting the Spelling of a Child’s Name
Fortunately, spelling is generally one of the easiest fixes. In many states, this can be fixed by gathering a few of the right documents and presenting them to the clerk, such as a baptismal record or doctor’s record. This is especially true is its the first name, since this doesn’t concern any parentage issues. Last name spelling corrections are a little different. Sometimes they can be simple, like if the last name is spelled correctly for the parents. Other times it can be more complicated, and require a court order.
Correcting a Parent’s Name
The good news for changing a parent’s misspelled name is that you usually already have legal documents with your name spelled correctly, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, or marriage record. Correcting a spelling error can be as easy as bringing these documents to the department of records.
Other Errors That Can Be Corrected
In addition to name spelling, it’s also possible to correct errors for information like birthplace, gender, birth date, and other information. To change these you’ll usually need proof of some sort. For example, if you want to change the birth date or location, you’ll probably need the medical birth record.
Don’t Forget About the Fee
As with all governmental actions, changing the birth certificate can require a good-sized fee, and that’s true even if it’s to correct a mistake. This can be anything from around $15 to $60 or more. And that doesn’t include any fees for certified copies of supporting documents. Keep this in mind before you start the correction process.
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