8 Things To Know Before Legally Changing Your Name

by Calyn Ehid

There are plenty of reasons one may choose to change their name. You may be getting married or divorced. Or, you may just dislike the name your parents gave you. Whatever the reason may be, you can legally change your name at any time. However, don’t assume it’s so easy to do. When you want to change your last name, first name, or both, it takes a variety of steps and costs a bit of money. You will need to choose your new name, file paperwork, pay a fee, and even go to court to complete the procedure.

After all of that, however, it will be well worth it to have a new and more-fitting name. In this guide, we will take you through every step of the name change process, from choosing your new name to filing your name change with a local courthouse and updating government agencies with your newly adopted name. Although this can be a tricky process, especially if this is your first doing this, with the help of this guide, it’ll be a breeze! So, what are you waiting for? Let’s start getting your process underway for your new name change.

1. How to Change your Name?

When you go about changing your name, you should make sure it’s appropriate. Every state has different requirements, so see what you need to bring to your local courthouse, such as your: Petition for name change, Order for name change, Social Security Card, Photo ID, & Birth certificate. When you visit your local courthouse, you will need to have a few forms filled out, such as your Petition for Change of Name and Order to Show Cause for Change of Name. However, it’s crucial that you fill out the proper paperwork and bring the necessary documents to the local court that specializes in name change petitions. Once you submit your form, the clerk of courts will sign and date your forms.

Most states will also require you to pay a fee for altering your name. However, some states do offer a free waiver. Name change filing fees usually cost $100 to $200, but it depends on which state you’re doing it in. However, once you pay the filing fee, the clerk of courts will give you a hearing date for your name change. The next step is to attend your court hearing and have a judge review your change of name petition. From there, the judge will decide whether or not you can change your name, but you should bring extra copies of all your documents in case they need additional information. If you need legal assistance you can also find additional legal aid here and you can search for a lawyer here.

2. Name Restrictions

Legally, you can change your name to anything you choose, with a few exceptions. Fortunately, this step is easy to complete if you’re looking to change your last name due to a recent divorce or to match your significant other. But, if you want to adopt a new name, here are a few guidelines you should consider following: don’t choose a name that’s confusing or involves numbers, don’t choose a name that’s offensive or incites violence, don’t ask to change your name to one of a celebrity, don’t ask to change your name for illegal reasons, for example, to evade legal responsibilities.

3. Marriage

In most states in America, both men and women can change their last name to match their significant other’s, whether it be to change it completely, hyphenate the two names, or use an amalgamation of the names. When you decide to change your last name when you get marries, you only need to write the new last name on your marriage license and show your marriage certificate to your bank, Social Security Administration, and DMV as proof of your new name change. In the case you get married, there’s no need to file a court order.

4. Divorce

Many people choose to change their names when they get divorced. Just like getting married, divorce is another time when it is easy to change your legal name. In the case that you get divorced and want to change your name back to what it was before your marriage, you get this done during divorce proceedings. You can start using your maiden name once it appears on your Decree of Dissolution, otherwise known as your Divorce Decree. This will help you save money by paying even more filing fees to change your name after it has been finalized.

5. Costs

As mentioned above, you will need to pay a fee to change your name. Most states make you pay a fee of $150 to $200 to bring your name change petition to court. However, it also costs an additional sum of money to get your name change forms notarized. If you use a service to help you complete this legal procedure, you will likely need to pay an additional sum of money for their services. If you’re married, you may need to hand over more money to pay for extra certified copies of your marriage certificate, in case anyone needs proof of your new name change.

6. Local Laws

Not every state requires you to file your name change in a courthouse. For example, California allows you to simply choose a new name and use it under the state’s usage method. However, in states that do require you to legally file your name change, you’ll need a court order to show your name change to the SSA, DMV, and local banks. Also, some states require you to public your new name in the local paper for other people to see it. However, no matter where live in the country, it’s important to research what your state’s protocols are and file the right paperwork.

7. New Signature

Now that you’ve got your new name, you should work on practicing saying and writing it. Not to mention, it’s important that you practice your new signature on documents and the back of your bank card. The last thing you want to do is accidentally write your old signature on a check or legal document. This will only lead to confusion and trouble. However, you should take a few minutes every day to continuously practice rewriting your new signature to keep it fresh in your mind. Sooner, rather than later, it will become like second nature.

8. Check with Government Organizations

When you change your name, you should inform local your friends and family, as well as government agencies about your newly adopted name. The first agency you should check in with is the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security Card, then the IRS, and the DMV, to get a new license. However, you also shouldn’t forget to inform utility companies, mortgage or loan companies, banks, and credit card companies. Additionally, you should also make a list of ID documents, such as your passport, which you need to update. Other forms you may need to update with your new name are checks, medical records, and insurance documents. If you have your old name listed on legal documents, such as your will, you should also update those as well. those as well.