When legalising the change of your name, it’s vital that all necessary steps are followed – some individuals may even require court intervention in this regard.
Legally changing your name is most often done as part of marriage or divorce proceedings. A marriage certificate should suffice if changing names after getting married.
Table of Contents
1. File a Petition for a Name Change
Step one in changing your name is filing a petition with the circuit court in your current or intended county of residence, detailing your current and new names as well as any reason (for instance “change from hyphenated name”). All necessary fees should also be paid; contact your county clerk for more information regarding fees for changing names in that jurisdiction. Also keep in mind that publishing the name change petition typically costs money; fee waivers may be offered when publishing this expense is needed.
Once your name change petition is ready for submission, either take it directly to your county clerks office for review, or mail it directly to the court. County clerks can help fill out all the required documents and provide any extra guidance needed – certification of all information contained within is also a legal requirement in some states.
If your name change application is successful, the judge will sign and return a Final Judgment document for your records. Make copies for safe keeping; additionally, it’s prudent to request from the clerk a certified copy in order to update important identification documents such as driver’s licenses or passports.
2. Obtain a Court Order
Most states require you to file paperwork with the court requesting to change your name, and either set a hearing date or make an instantaneous decision on it. If approved by a judge, you’ll receive a court order with your new name that can be used on official documents like birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses and bank accounts. While each process varies slightly and can take time – it is vital to comply with local laws for optimal results.
If you are an adult looking to change your name, the court in the county (or Baltimore City) where you reside, work, have an establishment of any sort, regularly engage in vocational pursuits or were born should be the one where the change takes place. For minors under 18, please go the county where either they or any parent, guardian or custodian reside in order to process it successfully.
Your local court may also require that you pay a fee and publish the names change in a newspaper (or waive this step altogether). Some courts may also request official proof that no outstanding judgments exist against you; occasionally prosecutor or director of criminal justice officials could object if they think your name change may be an attempt to avoid creditors or commit crimes.
Once your judge signs the name change order, make sure to obtain certified copies for use when taking it to state and federal government agencies to have them change your records.
3. Submit a Petition for a Change of Address
Although changing your address might seem like a minor inconvenience, updating all your records requires changing it periodically. You can do this online using USCIS Form AR-11 Alien’s Change of Address Card or mailing a paper form directly to its destination address – although certified, registered, or receipt mail should also work!
If you are changing to a hyphenated last name, be sure to use the correct form. Each state varies on their laws regarding whether it is legal for them to hyphenate their names; some require you to complete a court proceeding for this process.
Most individuals should inform their employers of their new name changes. If you work at an employer, please file any necessary paperwork with them to change any records that include your old name (i.e. voter registration or driver’s licenses). Additionally, updating any public records such as voter registration or driver’s licenses could be important too.
Notify the local government and law enforcement of your name change, in some states this may also involve informing them. Most agencies will publish this change as well as give a hearing date so if this is required of you make sure to attend it!
Taken a name of their husband is an age-old tradition dating back to coverture laws whereby women were subsumed under their husbands and became one legal entity. But it’s essential that this topic be discussed well ahead of getting married to ensure an informed decision and smooth process. If you require any guidance on taking your spouse’s last name or creating your own hyphenated name, contact a family law practitioner in your area for help.
4. Submit a Petition for a Change of Social Security Number
Once you have obtained a court order to change your name and made all relevant updates to documents, it’s time to apply for a new Social Security number with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Their helpful website outlines which documents may be needed based on your situation – you can do this either online or at one of their offices or card centers near you.
When applying, make sure that all necessary documentation, including proof of identity and citizenship, is with you. Original copies or certified copies will only be accepted; photocopies cannot be submitted. If changing your name due to divorce or another legal event, additional documents might include court orders, marriage licenses, birth certificates or any other related documents.
If you are changing your name due to personal reasons such as abuse or danger, additional documents will be required, including medical records detailing injuries as well as police reports and letters from shelters, counselors or friends with direct knowledge of your situation.
Once you’ve submitted the appropriate documentation, it typically takes only a few weeks for you to receive your new Social Security Administration (SSA) card. Once this happens, visit your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a driver’s license or ID card reflecting your name change – don’t forget a federally compliant REAL ID as that has additional travel benefits! You can find local DMV contacts through its website as well. Also don’t forget the IRS about this change so they can update their records!
5. Submit a Petition for a Change of Driver’s License
Change of Last Name may not be top of mind when planning a wedding or selecting the ideal signature cocktail, but it is an essential administrative task that must be completed for numerous reasons. Whether keeping your maiden name, adopting your spouse’s last name, or using a hyphenated last name post-marriage/divorce requires filing an official petition in most states to update your driver’s license – however this process varies by state; simply be sure that you compile all the required documents and follow each step in order.
In New York, for instance, to change your name legally you’ll need to submit a Petition for Change of Name form along with certified copies of court orders or amended birth certificates to verify the new name you want to adopt. In addition, photo identification such as driver’s licenses or passports are necessary as is payment of filing fees which vary by county; if the fee becomes prohibitively expensive you can ask the court for a waiver.
The Clerk will review your petition and, if necessary, schedule a hearing date. At that hearing, all required documents will need to be presented before Judge and presented at your name change hearing before being signed off on by him/her as approval or otherwise.
Once approved by a judge, you’ll receive your official Order Granting Leave to Change Name document from the Clerk’s Office. This document can then be used to update your driver’s license and other official documents. Furthermore, it’s essential that a list be made of all places you must notify of your new name change – this includes Social Security Administration and financial institutions such as banks. Colie Christensen founded NewlyNamed which offers customized name change kits designed to save both time and money during this arduous legal name change process.