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A Guide to Using a Stepparent's Surname on a Minor's Passport

Father and son.
Young girl at airport by michaeljung/DepositPhotos

Applying for a minor's passport is more difficult than getting your own as an adult, because there are extra layers protecting the rights of minors. More documents need to be provided like proof of parental relationship. In the easiest circumstances both parents are together and can easily provide all documents necessary, but this is not always the case, and blended family or other special circumstances can make things more difficult. This is especially true for stepparents who want the child to have their surname. There has been an influx of requests for this type of name change in recent years, so it's important to know the challenges the natural parent and stepparent may face.

Why It Is Important to Provide Evidence for the Surname Change

Firstly, it's extremely important when applying for a stepparent surname change of a minor that you can prove the child has been using the stepparent's surname legally either due to a court ordered name change, or through the sole use of the name for five years. The reason this needs to be established is for the safety of the minor and protection of the natural parents. When a request is put in by only one natural parent for the minor to have the stepparent's surname listed on a passport, it may solicit an inquiry from the other natural parent or even from Congressional offices wanting the documentation used as evidence for the name change.

Two Ways You Can Change the Surname of Your Stepchild

The U.S. passport agency will grant this request if one of the following conditions is met. One is if the natural parent and stepparent can produce documentary evidence that the minor has exclusively used said surname for at least five years. This can be proven with documents such as school or medical records. The other is if both natural parents give written consent in the form of a notarized affidavit allowing the stepparent to handle the child's passport application, or sign their application to identify the child.

If written consent cannot be established by both natural parents because one is deceased, the living natural parent must provide a copy of the death certificate of the absent natural parent. In some cases both of the minor's parents are deceased; under these circumstances the stepparent requesting the surname change must provide proof of guardianship as well as court ordered name change documents. If in any of these circumstances the conditions are not met and proper proof is not shown the request will be denied.

Alternative to Changing Stepchild's Surname on a Passport

If your request for changing the minor's surname to the stepparent's is denied, you may be able to have the surname included as "known as" in the passport. You will still need to provide documentary evidence establishing the use of the surname for the child in question. This can be done using affidavits from the stepparent and natural parent as well as at least two public documents like medical and school records proving the use of the surname. Applying for the use of a stepparent's surname can be tricky and each case's circumstances will be different, so be sure to contact the nearest U.S. Passport Agency or accredited and registered passport expeditor to guide you on your best course of action.

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