You can change your last name to your stepfather’s. You will not need your parents’ approval if you are 18 years old or above. You can also change your last name to your stepfather’s if he adopts you, under the age of 18. However, your biological father must relinquish his parental rights if you are a minor.
Changing your last name is a big decision and may be a strong statement that can help you chart a new direction for your life. Some people could may adopt a new last name to identify more with their new family, especially if they don’t have a strong connection to their father. Whatever the reason, it is important to know all you can about whether or not you can change your last name to your stepfather’s.
An individual’s name is very much a part of who they are. Changing your last name can be difficult, especially if your biological father is still involved and/or has parental rights. If he opposes the change, the courts may be reluctant to allow you to change your name.
Related Reading: Can Step Dad’s Adopt Their Stepchildren?
Can a Person Change Their Last Name to Their Stepfather’s?
To change your surname, you need the consent of each person with parental responsibility. This applies to an individual who is not yet 18 years old. In most cases, the mother has parental responsibility at birth, and the father who was married to the mother at the time of birth is named the father on the birth certificate. Alternatively, if your parents were not married it is the father as your mother listed him on the birth certificate. Therefore, the father will have parental responsibility.
However, suppose a father was not named on the birth certificate at birth. In that case, they can acquire parental responsibility through court order or consent. Only when a father registers the birth, completes the necessary paperwork, or is lawfully wed to the mother will his name appear on the birth certificate. The goal is to determine who has parental responsibility and who you need consent from.
In cases where the father does not have parental responsibility, obtaining consent from the biological father would still be good practice. If you want to change your last name, it is not whether you can change it. It is whether or not those with parental responsibility consent to you changing your last name. If those with parental responsibility consent, changing your surname is fairly easy.
All of this applies to an individual who is not yet 18 years old. Changing your last name if you are an adult or, under 18 if your stepfather has already adopted you, would be a breeze. An individual can change their last name themselves, without parental consent, once they reach the age of 18 in the US.
Any person who is over the age of 18 is considered to have attained the age of majority. According to the law, a citizen older than 18 but younger than 21 does not need his parents’ consent before changing their name.
What To Do If a Person with Parental Rights Won’t Consent?
Suppose you are desperate to do it yourself. In that case, it could be wise to hold off until you are 18 years old if your biological dad has not relinquished his parental rights and you’re a minor. However, an application can be made to a family court if you are a minor and want to immediately change your last name to your stepfather’s.
This is where a judge will determine whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to switch their last name to their stepfather’s. It cannot simply be that the child wants to change their surname or that they haven’t had contact with their biological father in a long time.
Some courts will think that even though the child and the person with parental responsibility are not in close contact, that is the only link the child has to their father. Therefore, the courts may be reluctant to change the last name if there is no other reason. It’s pretty simple if the biological dad is okay with it. If he isn’t, it will be far more difficult.
The children’s last name cannot be changed by the stepfather. A straightforward petition or the stepfather lawfully adopting the kid can, however, accomplish this. The consent of the individual’s parents is required if they are under the age of majority, or 18, in which case the parent has the only authority to change the individual’s name.
The last name listed on your birth certificate or social security card is the one that is legally the one that was given at birth. You are not permitted to use any other last name on official documents, such as school records or your passport, unless the courts legally change it.
If the biological father is involved, he might also have some legal influence. A court order must be filed, and the birth dad must consent to give up his parental rights. Suppose the whereabouts of one of the people with parental responsibility are unknown. In that case, an application can be made for a specific issue order that will permit the change of the child’s last name.
In this application, you must demonstrate that every effort has been made to locate and communicate the desire for the last name change to the person with parental responsibility. You will need to show that you have contacted the last known address of that person with parental responsibility. For example, it could be the last place of work or known relatives, etc.
In certain states, if the biological father is summoned and fails to appear, it will be presumed that he has waived such rights. The stepfather must formally adopt the child in order to have his name replace the birth dad’s on the birth certificate.
A biological parent’s obligation to financially support their child ends when they formally relinquish their parental rights. When a stepfather adopts a kid, he assumes all parental rights and obligations, including those for child custody and financial support.
Suppose the biological father is still alive and has not already had his parental rights removed by a court. In that case, he must renounce his rights to the child in the US. The child can then be adopted by the stepfather. The court will, upon petition, add a last name change order in the adoption decree at the adoption’s finalization.
Related Reading: How to Remove Your Father’s Name From a Birth Certificate
Why Would You Want to Change Your Last Name?
There are several reasons why a child would want to change their last name, such as wanting to share their mother and stepfather’s last name. This indicates to outside parties how unified they are now as a family.
Some people change their last names because they don’t want to be associated with their fathers. This is usually the case when the individual detests both the name and the person from whom it is derived. This is usually due to abuse suffered at the hands of the biological father, them being absent, and/or a deadbeat dad.
One more reason an individual would want to change their last name to their stepfather is when the stepfather has stepped in completely as a father figure and the child feels like the stepfather is a better father. This is often the case when the biological father’s name is notoriously known, especially if he has a criminal history.
Benefits Of Taking Your Stepfathers Last Name
Changing your last name to your stepfather’s name has several benefits. These include but are not limited to:
- It is the ultimate expression of love and will likely strengthen and deepen the relationship you have with your stepfather.
- You cut out old ties and can move on with your life in a healthy manner. You will no longer have a toxic family member in your life.
- You get to have a father that has your best interest at heart and have a great role model. You also gain extra confidence in yourself because you know he loves you like his own.
As an adult, you do not need anyone’s permission to change your last name to your stepfather’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter). If your stepfather adopts you, it is easy for you to take their last name. As a minor, the people with parental rights need to give their consent. You can file a petition in circuit or probate court to change your name. Then, you would go to court and tell them your reasons for the last name change.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.