In most jurisdictions, a change of one’s name is regulated by statute. Such statutes usually provide for the filing of a certificate, application, or petition to a court of record. Some statutes require a petition specifying the grounds for the change, as well as the petitioner’s name, the date and place of birth, residence, and proposed name. A petitioner may be required to stipulate whether he or she has been convicted of a crime or adjudicated a bankrupt, whether there are any judgments or liens of record against him or her, and whether there are any actions or proceedings pending to which the petitioner is a party.
A woman has the right to her birth-given name, notwithstanding marriage. It is now generally recognized that a married woman acquires her husband’s surname as a matter of custom rather than as a matter of law.
Many people, whether adults or minors, have the need for a legal name change as a result of marriage, divorce, adoption or simply a desire to have another name. Generally, you can change your name:
- so long as it is not for a fraudulent purpose, such as avoiding debts;
- the new name will not affect other people’s rights; or
- the new name is not a curse word.
There are generally three ways to change your name:
- Usage – In some states using a name as your own has the affect of making it your name.
- Court Order – A court order is recommended to change your name and is required by most states.
- A marriage certificate may serve as proof of a name change.
Name change actions usually can take anywhere from a day, to six (6) months. The time it takes varies not only from state to state but from county to county.
In order to properly file for a name change, one must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file. In other words, in order to petition a state for a name change, you must be a permanent resident of that state. The required residency is often as long as at least six months and sometimes for as long as one year. Someone who files for a name change must generally offer proof that he/she has resided in the state for the required length of time.
When a minor is involved, some states require both parents to join in the petition. Other states permit a single parent to petition for the change as long as proper notice of the petition is given to the other parent. In determining whether a child’s name should be changed without the consent of one of the parents, courts usually recognize that the child’s welfare should be the controlling factor. The general rule is that both parents must consent to a name change for a minor. As a result, there could be controversy over whether the minor’s name should be changed, and a hearing in front of a judge is likely. Ultimately as stated above, the judge will decide what is in the best interest for the child. Therefore, the reason for the change should be significant, such as adoption or bringing a stepchild into a family.
After you have changed your name you may need to change records including:
- Social Security Card,
- Drivers License,
- Post Office Address,
- Tax records with the IRS and state tax authority,
- Voter Registration,
- Bank Accounts,
- Credit Cards,
- Medical records,
- Records with Insurance Companies,
- Memberships in clubs, professional associations, etc.
- Records with your Employer and
- Retirement plans.
You will also need to consider changing your (a) Will, (b) Health Care Proxy, (c) Living Will, (d) Trust, (e) Power of Attorney and (f) Contracts.
Some of these agencies or businesses (such as the Social Security Administration) will insist on seeing documentation of your name change. Others will not. Some will just need a phone call, while others will need to see you in person or get it in writing. It is recommended that you keep your documentation in a safe secure place so that it is readily available when needed.
Do not immediately throw away your old identification. It may be necessary to prove who you once were. Some IDs, like your passport, may carry an A.K.A. (“also known as”).