MINNESOTA MINOR NAME CHANGE: ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Do I have to notify the child's other parent that I am applying for a legal name change of our child?
Answer: Yes. Minnesota Statute §259.10 states that no minor child's name may be changed without both parents having notice of the pending application of change of name. You will need to provide the court with proof that you have provided notice of the minor name change application to the other parent. However, if the father is not listed on the birth certificate, and there is no court order has been issued assigning parenthood (a/k/a, paternity), then no notice needs to be provided. In that situation, you should bring a certified copy of the birth certificate with you to the court hearing.
- How far in advance of the hearing date do I need to notify the other parent?
Answer: You must mail your notice via certified to the noncustodial parent at least 30 days prior to the date on which the name change hearing is scheduled to occur. You should note that there is some variation among Minnesota courts regarding the requirements/methods for serving the noncustodial/non-applicant parent. You should check with the court administrator at the time that you file your application.
- Does the minor child need to sign the name change application?
Answer: If the minor child is over 14 years of age, he or she should sign the application.
- Is the minor child required to attend the court hearing regarding his or her name change?
Answer: Yes. In addition, you will need to bring two adult witnesses for the purposes of verifying the minor's identity.
- In deciding whether to grant a minor name change application, will the court consider the wishes/preferences of the subject child?
Answer: Yes, particularly with respect to older children. The preferences of a minor who has reached his or her teenage years is particularly significant. In the case In re Vick, which involved a sixteen year old child, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that it was appropriate for the court to adhere to the preferences. In its decision, the court explained: [The child] testified that he wanted to legally change his name to Vick and that he would likely do so voluntarily when he reached 18, regardless of the district court's decision. Cf. Ross v. Ross, 477 N.W.2d 753, 757 (Minn.App.1991) (stating that "[t]here is serious question when dealing with a child of this age whether trial courts can practically contradict the child's choice even if it was shown to be misguided"). Taking that into consideration, the district court found that, because T.A.S. would likely change his name when he turned 18, it was in his best interests to change it now in order to provide consistency before he obtained a driver's license and established a work history.
- What legal standard do the courts in Minnesota use to decide whether or not to grant a name change application for a minor?
Answer: As in most states, Minnesota applies the "best interest" standard. This means that the court's decision must be based on which outcome will generally be in the best interests of the child. To determine a child's best interests, the court considers various factors, including: (1) the length of time that the child has had the current name; (2) the potential that the name change might have to cause embarrassment; (3) the child's preference; (4) the effect that the name change would have on the child's relationship with each parent; and (5) the degree of respect that the present and proposed names have within the community. The amount of weight given to a particular factor depends on the facts of a given case. For example, a child's preferences will be given greater weight/deference in cases involving older children.
- In cases where a noncustodial father opposes the application, will the court consider the fact that the noncustodial father has not developed a close bond with the child or has failed to cultivate a meaningful relationship?
Answer: Yes. In the decision, In Re Vick, the court rejected the father's opposition to the name change. In its decision upholding the lower court's ruling, the Minnesota Court of Appeals specifically noted that, "The district court found that appellant had a strained relationship with TA.S. and that the name change would not further impair the relationship. The district court noted that appellant had made little effort to foster a relationship with [the child] in recent years, but that the name change would not prevent appellant from trying to cultivate a relationship with his son."