Change Name

Changing your name can be simple and hassle-free!

Introduction

There are two ways you can go about changing your name. You can change your name either by (1) using the name in all aspects of your personal, social and business life, or (2) by filing an official Order of Name Change with the court. Difficulties do tend to arise if you simply establish a new name merely by usage. 

Certified Document Solutions can help you file an official name change application without the need for an attorney. We will generate the proper legal forms, ensuring that your name change request will be prepared correctly.

 

Usage vs. Order of Name Change

In most states, you may change your name by usage. This is accomplished by consistently using the new name in all aspects of your personal, social, and business life, to the point where it in fact becomes the name you are known by when dealing with others. This is legally valid and does not involve any costs (minors and prison inmates are generally exceptions to this rule). 

Practically speaking, difficulties can arise after establishing a new name by usage, especially since not all states recognize usage as a way to process a name change. An official court document usually makes it easier for everyone to accept your new name. In addition, certain types of identification, such as a new passport or a birth certificate attachment, are not readily available if you change your name by the usage method. 

Furthermore, a court ordered name change establishes linkage between your previous and new name. It provides a record of the name change from the initial application to the official Decree or Order authorizing the name change. The court record can always be checked to verify a person’s identity.

 

Reasons For a Name Change

There are various reasons for requesting a name change. It may be based on events such as divorce, or it may simply be based on dissatisfaction with the name. Some other fairly common reasons include:
  • Taking the natural father’s name (e.g., after being born out of wedlock or adopted).
  • Changing to the mother's maiden name (e.g., after a divorce).
  • Identifying with a foreign nationality (e.g., to show grandparents’ nationality).
  • A cumbersome name (e.g., difficult to spell and/or pronounce).
  • Professional identity (e.g., legally maintaining a maiden name or changing to a pen name).
  • Gay or lesbian (e.g., both partners want to share the same last name).

There are inappropriate reasons for changing a name that will result in denial of the application and even consequences. For example, the new name cannot be identical to a celebrity or other famous individual, if the reason is to defraud others. In addition, you cannot change your name to avoid debts. 

Ultimately, the fact that you do not like your current name and want to change it to something you like better is all the reason you need.

 

Types of Name Change Applications 

There are three types of name change petitions: 

Adult
This is a name change filed by an adult individual. 

Minor
This is a name change filed by individuals seeking to change the name of a minor. Usually, the petition is filed by the parents or guardian of the child. 

Family
This name change application is filed for the entire family and is usually used when the last name will be changed for all family members.

 

Legal Requirements For a Name Change

The general legal requirements for changing your name are: 

Residency
You must live in the county and state where the name change petition will be filed. In some states, you must have lived in the county and state for a certain time (often at least six months) prior to filing. 

Legal grounds
You may not change your name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against you. In addition, you may not change your name:
  • To avoid debts and obligations.
  • To defraud any other person.
  • To capitalize on the name of a famous person.
  • To a name that would be intentionally confusing.
  • To a number or punctuation mark.
  • To a racial slur.
  • To a name that includes threatening or obscene words, or words likely to incite violence.

Jurisdiction
The name change application must be filed in the proper court, which is generally located in the county where you reside.

 

Restrictions

Below are a few of the restrictions placed on new names:
  • Names of Famous People

    Choosing the same name as a famous person can be difficult. You may choose the name of someone famous so long as you are not adopting the name for fraudulent purposes. However, from a practical perspective, the court examines these applications very closely. For example, if you want to use the name “Britney Spears,” you will have to convince the court that you do not look, act or sing like Britney and that you are not changing your name to take advantage of her fame.
  • Trademarked Names

    Company names and product names are usually protected by copyrights and trademarks. You should receive consent from whoever owns the fictitious name beforehand. For instance, if you wish to change your name to “Bose Audio” because you love their product so much, you should first receive consent from the company.
  • Initials, Numbers, and One-word Names

    Initials, numbers, and one-word names can all be used as legal names. For instance, Malcolm X was a legal name. Many of us have heard of the musician Prince changing his legal name to a simple sign (and then changing it back to Prince again). Nonetheless, one-word names and signs are typically more difficult to get approved.
  • Racial Slurs and Forbidden Words

    Certain profane words and racial slurs will not be accepted by courts. It is best to stay away from attempting to change your name to a racial slur or profane word.

The Name Change Process

The first step in officially changing your name is to file a Name Change Petition in the proper court with the filing fee. 

In most states, the person making the request must publish a notice in a local newspaper stating that he or she has filed a Name Change Petition. If other individuals (such as the parents of a minor child or a spouse) would be affected by the name change, then notice must be personally given to the affected party. 

Usually, the court will order a hearing for final consideration of the Name Change Petition. This is also an opportunity for interested parties to comment on the name change. If the court does not find any reasonable objections, it will issue a Judgment authorizing the name change.

 

After The Name Change

Whether you have changed your name by usage or by court order, you will still need to let others know you’ve taken a new name.

After the formal order granting the name change has been issued, there are a few additional steps necessary to complete the process in an orderly fashion. These all involve notifying any agency or individual that normally deals with you under your former name. Some of the agencies that require notification are:
  • Social Security Administration
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Passport Office
  • Post Office
  • IRS
  • Voter Registration
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Credit Cards
  • Doctors
  • Insurance companies
  • State Tax Authority
  • Clubs
  • Memberships
  • Employer
  • Retirement plans

You may also need to consider revising your will, trust, living will, power of attorney and contracts. If you do not yet have any of these important documents, Certified Document Solutions can help you create a will, living trust, living will and power of attorney, all without the price of a lawyer.

 

Marriage / Changing your Maiden Name

If you are recently married and would like to change your maiden name, you don't need to file a petition with the court. Instead, your marriage certificate serves as your "proof," and you just need to update the Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, credit cards, etc. 

First, you need certified copies of your marriage certificate. A photocopy will not be sufficient. Call the office where your marriage certificate was issued, and ask to get about three certified copies. These will typically have a raised seal on them. 

Next, you should use the certified copy of your marriage certificate as proof to change your name with the following government agencies:

1.     Social Security Administration
You will need to complete Form SS-5 and send it by mail (or deliver it in person) to the Social Security Administration. There is no cost. You can download the form, as well as instructions on how to complete it, by following this link: 

The Social Security Administration will also notify the Internal Revenue Service on your behalf, so you do not need to file anything directly with the IRS.

2.     Department of Motor Vehicles
Bring a certified copy of your marriage certificate to the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles office, and let them know that you've changed your name. Oftentimes, you will need to personally appear at the office, so make an appointment if possible. You can change the name on your driver's license, as well as the title to any automobile that you own.

3.     Passport
If your passport was issued one year or less from the date of your marriage, then you will need to complete Form DS-5504 and send it to the US Passport Agency, along with two color photos, a certified copy of your marriage certificate and your old passport: 

If your passport was issued more than one year from the date of your marriage, then you will need to complete a different form - DS-82. 

4.     Other Institutions
Once you have your new social security card and driver's license, changing your name with other institutions should be fairly straight-forward. Some will want proof of marriage, others may want a copy of your new social security card or driver's license. You should contact them individually to see what they require:

o    Banks and other financial institutions

o    Credit cards

o    Post Office

o    Employer (payroll and retirement plans)

o    Voter registration

o    Mortgages / Deeds

o    Insurance policies

o    Utilities

o    State tax authority

The above process is the same if you would like to use a hyphenated last name (with both your maiden name and husband's last name). However, you will need a formal name change petition, filed with the court, if the husband would like to change his name, or if you would like a new last name which is completely different from either your maiden name or the husband's last name.

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Certified Document Services (CDS) prepares legal documents for non-lawyers in their own legal actions. CDS offers no legal advice, recommendations, mediation or counseling under any circumstance. CDS are not Lawyers, are not employed by a Lawyer, cannot give any legal advice and our employees are not acting as your Attorney. CDS can give you general factual information pertaining to legal rights, procedures or options available to you in a legal matter when you are not represented by an attorney. CDS cannot give you specific advice, opinions or recommendations about your legal rights, remedies, defenses, or strategies.