How to Legally Change Your Name
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The Process of Changing Your Name
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You can legally change your name in one of two broad ways:

1. Through "common usage."

You simply change your name and use that name consistently. Under this method you do not have to go through the court system. HOWEVER: this is likely not the best way to change your name because all of your documentation would be wrong – not to mention that no one would likely believe you. For example, imagine attempting to buy a new car with a name that you started calling yourself. The car dealer would ask you for your identification and your documents would not match your new name. Good luck!

2. Through a formal court process.

This is definitely the preferred way to change your name. This method will take a little time and some money, but overall it is the best way to go.

Changing your name is a state law issue (as opposed to federal law), so the process listed below is only an outline of what generally occurs. You will have to follow the specific rules in your particular state to change your name.

The Court Process to Change Your Name (general steps to follow, as each state differs):
  1. File a Name Change Action.
    You need to file a name change petition with the court in your county of residence. Some states require you to be a resident for a minimum number of months before you can file a name change petition (e.g. 6 months to one year). Some forms may require you to have a notary public sign them.

  2. Publish Public Notice of Your Intent to Change Your Name
    Most courts will require you to publish you name change in a local newspaper or some other form of medium to indicate your intent to officially change your name. The notice generally must include the name of the court in which you filed for your name change. Technically, anyone who objects to your name change would then be able to bring that to the court’s attention – such as for a fraudulent reason.

  3. Appear in court
    A court appearance may be ordered, at which time any persons objecting to your name change may come forward. The judge will also likely review your name change petition to ensure that you are not changing your name for a fraudulent reason. You may even be required to attend a hearing where you go before the judge to state why you are changing your name. As long as you have a legitimate reason for your name change, you’ll likely be granted the right to change your name.

  4. Pay Filing Fees
    You’ll likely have to pay filing fees associated with changing your name. Fees vary from state to state. Sometimes you might be able to get your fees waived if you can show a strong reason why you need your name changed and how you cannot afford to do it. For example, if you want to change your name to avoid an abusive spouse, and you cannot afford the fees, the court may waive your fees or ask you to pay a reduced rate.

  5. Publish Your Name Change
    After the judge signs and grants your name change petition, you’ll likely have to publish your name change in a newspaper or some other form of medium. This is generally a formality to show the public that you’ve officially changed your name. Aliens must generally notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, while ex-convicts must generally notify the court system.

NOTE: You’ll have to obtain the proper forms from your particular state and location to change your name. Some of these forms might include:
  • a petition (to change your name)
  • an order (for the judge to grant your name change)
  • a notice of your intent to change your name for the general public
Next, we’ll go over what to do after you change your name.