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How To Change Your Name

Key Takeaways:

  • To change your name after getting married, you will need a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
  • To change your name after a divorce, you will need to ask the court to include your name change request in the divorce decree.
  • To change your name for a reason other than marriage or divorce, you will need to file a name change petition with your local court.

People change their names for many reasons. Fortunately, name changes are legal in every state.

The name change process may seem simple, but it is a formal legal process that often involves important areas of family law. Mistakes during a name change can create major issues for you. If you encounter difficulties with your name change, be sure to contact an experienced attorney who specializes in this area of law.

Why People Change Their Names

People decide to change their names for many reasons, including:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Dislike of the name
  • A change in gender identity
  • Religious conversion

Most people change their last names, but you can also change your first name or middle name.

Who Can Change Their Name?

Generally, any adult can request a legal name change. However, some states place additional requirements on people under age 25.

The law also allows a parent to change a child’s name for many reasons. Some states let people as young as 16 request a name change with a parent’s consent.

What Can You Change Your Name To?

Generally, you can choose any name you want. However, there are a few restrictions. Your new name can’t:

  • Be a number (“4″), a punctuation mark (“!”), or be primarily made up of these or other non-alphabetical symbols
  • Be offensive to others
  • Be a trademarked name such as Nike or Starbucks
  • Purposefully mimic a celebrity’s name (But if your name is Julia Jones and you marry Caleb Roberts, that is probably fine.)

Courts will also reject name changes that are done to avoid financial obligations or hide from law enforcement.

How To Change Your Name

The adult name change process varies from state to state. It can also differ based on the reason for the change. However, there are certain things that happen in the name change process.

Step #1: Get Official Documentation of Your Name Change

The documentation that you’ll need depends on the reason for your change.

After getting married: To change your name after marriage, you probably won’t have to go to court. However, you will need to request a certified copy of your marriage certificate. It may take a few weeks for the certificate to arrive in the mail.

Note: Your marriage license and your marriage certificate are not the same. Your marriage license is issued a few days before your wedding and gives you permission to marry. Your marriage certificate is the official legal record of your marriage created after you return the signed marriage license to the appropriate office.

After a divorce: During your divorce proceedings, you can ask the court to restore your former name. Once the court issues the divorce decree, you’ll have legal permission to change your name.

For other reasons: If you’re not changing your name due to a marriage or divorce, you’ll have to file a name change petition with your local court. You’ll also have to pay a filing fee, but if money is an issue, most states will let you apply for a fee waiver.

After you file your petition, there will be a court hearing where a judge will listen to your reasons for wanting to change your name. If the court doesn’t see any issues, you’ll get a court order allowing your change of name. After you get the order, in most states, you’ll have to give public notice of your new name by publishing it in a local newspaper.

Step #2: Go to the Social Security Office

Because nearly all government agencies rely on the Social Security Administration (SSA) database to verify names, the SSA should be your first stop. You’ll need to take your official name change documents, your birth certificate, a valid photo ID (like a driver’s license), and your current Social Security card to yourlocal Social Security office to begin this process.

Step #3: Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Next, you’ll need to go to the DMV and change your name on your driver’s license or state ID. The rules for the name change vary from place to place, but the DMV will probably want to see your name change documents, your new Social Security card, and proof of address.

Step #4: Notify Your Bank and Financial Institutions

Of course, you’ll have to change the name on your bank account. If you have a traditional bank or credit union, they will probably ask you to visit your local branch with your legal name change documents, your new Social Security card, and your new driver’s license or ID card.

You should also change your name on any investment accounts, retirement funds, or credit card accounts. You might also look into changing your name on your credit report.

Step #5: Change Your Name Everywhere Else

After you get your new driver’s license and Social Security card, you’ll need to notify other businesses and government agencies of your new name. You should also change your name on your:

  • Utility accounts
  • Voter registration card
  • Will and other end-of-life documents
  • Vehicle’s title and registration
  • Mortgage
  • Passport

Do You Need Help Changing Your Name?

Changing your name can be simple. However, a mistake could cost you precious time and money. If you encounter trouble during the name change process, you may need legal advice. Use the LawInfo directory to find a lawyer near you who can help you with your name change.

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