Whether you want to get married, divorced, or feel that “Dorcas” or “Wilbur” never expressed the true you, changing your name is a relatively simple process. Nevertheless, a legal name change requires filing forms with a court, publishing your request, and attending a hearing to ensure that your new moniker is legally recognized. If you have questions about the process or need a helping hand, talk to a family attorney to see what steps are necessary in your state.
You will most likely need to provide official documents, such as a birth certificate, marriage license, and divorce decree. You may also need to show these to any institutions where you hold accounts or services, such as banks, credit card companies, and employers, as well as to the Social Security Administration, which will change your name in the Social Security database to match the rest of your identification. You will also need to notify any schools, alumni associations, or airline loyalty programs with which you have accrued rewards points. Changing your name can have implications for taxes, and you should consult with the Internal Revenue Service to see how this might affect your refund.
The legal name change process varies by state, but you will generally need to file a petition and order for a new name with your county supreme court or, in New York City, the New York City Civil Court. You will probably have to pay a fee to file these forms, as well as a fee to publish the request in a local newspaper. Once the judge approves your name change, you will need to obtain copies of the court order to use for your identity documents, such as a driver’s license or passport.
Some states allow you to change your name based on your gender or after getting married or divorced, while others require you to have a valid reason for the name change and to prove that you are not hiding from a liability or evading debts or obligations. The specifics of the process are outlined by each state, but you can typically expect to have to fill out some form of petition, have it published, and attend a hearing with a judge or magistrate.
While changing your name is a fairly easy process, it can be confusing and time-consuming. It is important to think about the reason for your name change and select a new one that fits you. You will be living with this name for the rest of your life, so it’s worth taking the time to choose a name that is meaningful and suits you. Besides, your friends and family are sure to have questions, so be prepared to explain your choice. In the end, your chosen name should make you happy. For more great stories, visit INSIDER’s homepage.