Changing a Child’s Name During the Adoption Process
What’s in a name? For most parents, a lot. New moms and dads-to-be spend months milling over baby name books and websites, consulting family and friends, and listing pros and cons before settling on a name for their baby – and then, sometimes change their minds. But what about when your future child already has a name – as is in the case of many adoptions? We’ve done the research for you and compiled all the information you need to consider when deciding to change a child’s name during or after the adoption process – as well as how to do it if you decide a change is right for your child and your family.
Age of the Child
First, you must consider the age of the child you are adopting. Are they old enough to respond to their current name or have an opinion about it? While changing the first name of a teenager obviously wouldn’t be feasible unless it was the child’s choice herself, the lines become more blurry when dealing with children in their toddler and preschool years. As a general rule of thumb, changing the name of an infant – especially one who cannot speak yet at all – probably won’t have any effect on them at all. In fact, they will never remember life under a different name, and as they aren’t old enough to choose a name for themselves, you have much more freedom in choosing a new name to call them by. However, if your child already associates their identity (or even their birth family) with their name, the process becomes much more complicated. Preschool-aged children may not understand a name change, and it may take a long time for them to learn to respond to it. In addition, it could elicit a negative emotional response from them if they feel like they have been stripped of their identity.
The Child’s Wishes
Because of this, arguably the most important aspect to consider when changing an adopted child’s name is the child’s opinion. Do they like their current name? Do they express wanting to be called by a different name or nickname? Do they have strong memories of their birth family associated with their current name? One of the easiest ways to find this out is to simply talk to them about it. If you’ve already given them a nickname, this can be a great segueway into discussing a first name change. Ask the child what they think of their name, and if there is anything they’d rather be called instead. (Although, letting a four-year-old name himself Superman or another name they’d resent in a few years probably isn’t the best way to go.) If they are open to the idea of a new name, let them help choose a name from a list of options that fits your style better and try using it over the next couple of weeks. How do they respond to it? Do they seem proud to answer to it, or hesitant/sad/angry? These responses are important to note when exploring a name change in a child old enough to understand.
Changing the Name
If you decide to go through with a name change following the adoption process, you will need to make an amendment to their birth certificate – and many states require that you have the permission of each of the parents on their birth certificate to do so. Other than that, the process is the same as changing the name of any other child, even a biological one – you will need a deed poll, and need to go through a lengthy process to get the name finalized. This is why you should be completely sure of the new name before beginning any paperwork.
If completely changing your child’s first name isn’t an option for you, there are still other options if their name doesn’t fit your family. Opting for a nickname stemming from an aspect of their first or middle name is a great idea – for example, a child with the first or middle name Bryony could easily be nicknamed “B,” pronounced “Bea,” for an easier and more natural way of calling them by name. It’s all about creativity, and incorporating the child’s thoughts and opinions into the decision to call them by a name they aren’t used to.
If you have recently gone through the adoption process and are considering changing the name of your child, keep these aspects of child renaming in mind. If it is right for your family, doing so could be an excellent next step in your relationship with your child.
If you are looking into adoption, it’s a good idea to have an experienced adoption attorney in Texas to help. Call our office today for more information or to set up a consultation.
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