You look into your newborn baby's eyes and you are convinced that she's a Jennifer. No, wait: A Susan. Or maybe a Caroline? You just aren't sure, yet you feel the pressure to give her a name before you leave the hospital and have to fill out the birth certificate. Laws vary by state, but in many cases, you don't actually have to name your little one before you take her home, and you may even have up to a year to make up your mind.
Birth Certificates and Naming
You may not have to name your baby before you leave the hospital, but most states require that a birth certificate be submitted right away. That means that in states like Minnesota, your baby will be listed as "baby boy" or "baby girl" until you change the name. There is typically a time limit for making the change. In Minnesota, it's 45 days. Other states that allow you to leave the hospital without completing the birth certificate, like Michigan, will still require that you submit it within a certain time frame. In Michigan, parents are required to submit the birth certificate within 30 to 40 days. In Washington, you can use a birth verification letter in place of a birth certificate for 60 days.
In most states, you cannot name the father of your child unless you are married, and then you have to name your husband. If you are not married, you have to get the father's notarized consent to be named on the birth certificate. This can be done after you leave the hospital, and there is no specific time period for doing so. In most cases, you will leave the hospital with the father unnamed on the birth certificate, and then you will amend it later. However, regardless of who is named as the father of your baby, you can give your baby any last name you choose. You can give your baby the father's last name, your own last name, a hyphenated name that combines the two, or some other last name entirely.
If you decide to leave the hospital without naming your baby, the state may automatically give the child a legal placeholder name, such as "baby boy." To change the name, you must submit paperwork within a certain time frame. In California, parents have up to a year to submit a Supplemental Name Report. In Florida, parents also have up to a year to make changes to the birth record -- even if they did name their baby when they left the hospital.
If you do not give your baby a name within the designated time frame, you may have to pay a fee and file additional paperwork. For example, in Florida, a birth record can only be changed after a child's first birthday to correct errors or omissions. Parents may have to provide evidence to make these changes. If supporting documentation can not be provided, a court order may need to be provided. In California, parents are charged a fee if they wait more than a year to send in the Supplemental Name Report.