How to Change Your Name

There are many situations that lead people to want to change their names. In order for your name to be legally changed, you must complete specific legal steps. While the name change process is formal and has important legal implications it is simple enough for you to do on your own without the assistance of an attorney in almost every case.  Generally, you can change your own legal name if you meet the minimum age requirements in your state and you chose a name that is acceptable under the law.
Choosing a New Name: Restrictions on Name Changes
State laws make it easy to change your name to your spouse’s name upon marriage or back to your maiden or birth name at the time of a divorce. If you want to change your name for reasons other than familial changes then you will generally be allowed to do so as long as the name that you chose:
  • Does Not Have a Fraudulent Intent: you cannot change your name with the intent to hide or to gain an advantage (such as inheritance) to which you are not entitled.
  • Is not Chosen with the Purpose to Confuse Others: you cannot take the name of a famous person with the intent of confusing the public about your true identity. However, if a marriage or divorce would give you the same name as a famous person then your name change will be allowed by the court because your purpose is related to your marital situation and not to confuse others.
  • Is Not a Racial Slur or a Fighting Word: your name should not incite others to violence nor insult or anger groups of people.
  • Contains Letters: names that contain numerical digits rather than letters have generally been disallowed by the courts.
Where to Change Your Name
If you want to change your name and your proposed name change does not fit any of the restrictions described above then changing your name is a relatively easy process. If you are changing your name for a reason other than marriage or divorce, or if you are changing the name of a minor, then you may need a court order which will likely be granted if the name does not meet any of the restrictions described above.
 If you are changing your name because of a marriage or divorce then you can simply provide a certified copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree to the government and other institutions which require notification of your name change. Those institutions include: the social security administration, the department of motor vehicles, the post office, your employer, your school, banks, creditors, utilities, insurance companies, passport office, registrar of voters and other institutions which may be applicable to you such as the Veteran’s Administration or Public Assistance Office.
Changing your name is a big decision and often an important event in your life. However, the legal processing of your name change is not difficult as long as you notify all of the parties who require notification, as described above.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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