Learn How to Change Your Name Legally
Changing your name legally doesn't have to be a difficult process. It is important to know your state laws, however.
Because laws differ from state to state, the following information is broken down for the four regions, as divided by the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States.
Basics to Changing Your Name Legally
In most states, the process for a legal name change involves a court hearing. Laws will vary, but the majority of states require you to submit a name change petition to a court clerk. Once a hearing is set, you place a notice in a local newspaper announcing your name change. This allows others to attend the hearing if they want to argue against it.
During the hearing, you will be asked by a judge to provide paperwork like a birth certificate, criminal record and form stating why you are requesting a name change. This might include religious reasons or simply be a case of you've never liked the name your parents gave you and want something that better fits your personality.
After the hearing, if the name change was granted, you must notify your creditors, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security office and anyone else who has your information on file.
Differing State Laws Regarding Legal Name Changes
State laws will vary, but a few different name change laws are listed below.
- Colorado: A fingerprinted copy of your criminal record is also required if you are fifteen or older.
- Delaware: Inmates cannot apply for a name change except in specific circumstances, such as religious beliefs.
- Hawaii: Only name changes occurring with marriage, ordered by the lieutenant governor or by a family court judgment are legal. Name changes approved by the lieutenant governor must be notarized. There is a $100 filing fee for name changes.
- Idaho: You must place a notice in a county newspaper for four successive weeks. If your town lacks a county newspaper, you must place notices in three public buildings. Be prepared to show proof you've met this requirement when you go to your hearing.
- Michigan: To apply for a name change, you must live in Michigan for at least one year prior to the filing. Those 22 or older must be fingerprinted and pay for copies to be sent to the state police and to the FBI.
- New Mexico: Anyone age 14 or older can legally petition the district court for changing their name. Those under 14 must have a guardian or parent file the petition for them.
- Pennsylvania: Following divorce, a woman can resume using her maiden name simply by sending a letter to an officer of the court, include the court docket number for the divorce hearing.
- South Carolina: To change a minor's name, both parents must appear in court. A guardian ad litem is sent to represent the child's best interests.
- Tennessee: Sex offenders and murderers may never apply for a name change.
- Texas: If a minor is involved in a name change request and is at least 10 years old, he/she must submit their own written approval for the name change.
- Washington: The district court handles most name changes. Domestic violence name changes are handled by the superior court.
- West Virginia: Name changes are not granted to murderers until 10 years following their imprisonment and parole.
- Wyoming: You must live in Wyoming for two years before making a request.