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How to Legally Change Your Name

Legal name change

When it comes to legally changing your name, states have their own laws for engaging the process. Some require Court Orders, while others many simply accept the change by virtue of usage. Depending upon the reason for the change, it may be a bit easier (for instance, when changing it due to marriage or divorce) and other times not as easy (individuals with criminal pasts, debts, etc.).

Legally changing your name

One of the best things that you can do when you are ready to make the change is to simple start using the name that you want to change to. This may come in the form of filling out documents with the new name, registering for various events under the new name, and even making it known to those around you of your new name. This can be extremely helpful with the process (absent doing it for a reason that usually ends in denial of allowing the change), but when it comes to some areas of life, it will not be enough.

Ultimately, Court Orders may be the best path to reduce issues with such matters as social security, birth certificates, passports and taxes. Due to the varying state laws for name changes, it is important to start with your state’s requirements. You can obtain this information from a family lawyer or in many situations, visit the website of your state or county government to obtain the information. Many times you can get lucky with the process being initiated by an online form (on the county or state government website).

When you have prepared your form, it is important that you review what documents and information will be required by the Court for the change. Also, some states require that the individual seeking the name change publish this intent in a local newspaper (note…when the change is due to gender identity, witness programs, or being a victim of domestic violence or stalking, most states requiring publication will have rules to protect the confidentiality of the person filing for the new name).

Although the states have different laws, here is an example of what might be required when filing for a legal name change:

  • Complete required forms (i.e., Petition to Change Name, Order to Show Cause for Name Change).
  • Complete local legal forms to review criminal history.
  • File your forms with your local court clerk’s office.
  • Publish the name change in a local newspaper.
  • Attend a court hearing to have your matter heard and to ensure all forms are completed.
  • Obtain your Decree/Order approving the name change.

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