A birth certificate is one of the most important documents you can obtain. A birth certificate records a person's name, date, and place of birth, and who their parents or legal guardians are. They are often required when applying for jobs or enrolling in school, getting a social security card or renewing your passport.
Birth certificates are used to prove citizenship and identity, that is why if you have changed your name, or if there is any mistake on your birth certificate, it is imperative that you update the information on your birth certificate.
Most common name changes, due to marriage or divorce, do not warrant a name change in your birth certificate, because you did not go by your married name at birth. Laws on how to change your name vary from state to state. However, a birth certificate name change always requires a judge’s consent and altering of vital records.
How to legally change your name
If you have an infant under the age of 1 and want to change his/her name, you need to send a complete and signed birth certificate correction to the Vital Records Office of the state where the birth occurred.
To change the name of somebody over the age of 1, you are required to petition the local county court to get permission for the legal name change, and then you can submit the birth certificate correction form.
The procedure to legally change your name on your birth certificate varies from state to state. In some states, like California you are required to publish a notice of your name change petition in a local newspaper and, explain to the court why you want to change your name.
To obtain permission from a court of law for the name change on your birth certificate, you must first file a petition, pay the processing fee, and attend a hearing to explain your reasons for the change. If your name change is due to adoption, you must also provide documentation to support your claim such as an adoption decree, which establishes the reason for changing your name.
Minors are not allowed to petition to change their names, an adult must always petition on behalf of a minor, and the minor's parents must be notified. Some states will also require additional documentation for those changing their name because of gender reassignment surgery.
How to amend your Birth Certificate
Once a judge has approved your name change, you must then petition the Vital Records office of either the state or the county where the birth occurred to amend the birth certificate. To complete your application, you must provide a certified copy of the court order and a certified copy of the original birth certificate. You will also be required to pay a filing fee to amend the vital record. Once the birth certificate is amended, you will receive a new copy of the birth certificate reflecting the name change.
Some states will issue a document reflecting the legal name change and attach it to the original birth certificate, keeping it on file. Other states will create a new birth certificate altogether, which is especially important when dealing with name changes in closed adoption cases.
However, in most cases, the original birth certificate will be kept in a sealed file by the Vital Records Office, and may only be accessed with a judge’s consent or with a subpoena.
Related: How to legally change your name