Written by Alleah

Modified & Updated: 07 Sep 2023

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

how to change your name

There are many reasons why someone would like to change their name. Whatever the reason is, choosing the name is the simple part. Everything goes through a legal framework and you need to know a few things for the process of how to change your name.

It might be easy for some while others may find it difficult. So if you’re planning to change any part of your name, the best thing to do is research so that you will have an idea of how things work. Regardless of your reason, here are some of the paperwork and things that you need to consider to avoid any conflicts and problems at a later time. 

Table of Contents

People change their names for a number of reasons.

Life is unpredictable and major changes happen. More often than not, those changes include changing our names. Some people go through the process of legally changing their first or last names and the most common reasons are marriage or divorce. There are also reasons like name change due to gender reassignment while others just don’t sit well with the name their parents gave them.

One thing to consider before you delve into the question of how to change your name is to understand that it is a process. It is not something that you can do with just a snap of a finger. You have to be ready in all aspects most especially on the financial side as it may be costly.

Divorce and marriage are the simplest times for you to change your name.

In most of the states in the US, men and women can easily change their names if they are getting married in a legal process. They have the option to totally change it to their spouse’s surname, create a combination of both their surnames or hyphenate both their last names. In this process, you do not need to file for a court order just like all other kinds of the name change process. You just need to fill out the necessary forms and it’s a whole lot easier. 

On the other hand, divorce is a simple type of change, too. If you want to change your name back to your surname before you got married, the judge who’s doing the divorce proceedings can do that for you. In your Divorce Decree or most commonly known as the Decree of Dissolution, your intention to change back to your maiden name must appear. Right after the process, you are free to use your maiden name once more.

Reach out to Social Security if you're changing your name for marriage.

man, paper
Source: Unsplash

Before you process anything, contact the Social Security Administration first. You need to fill out all the necessary forms and mail them back to them together with your marriage certificate and identification cards. Right after all these, all you need to do is wait for the confirmation and the documentation of the name change. With the confirmation you got, make sure that the name that is linked with the social security number you have is changed, too.

A court petition is needed for other name change reasons.

On the first few points in this list, we already know that marriage and divorce are the simplest ways on how to change your name. But if you’re planning to change it for other reasons, you need to file a court petition for this. It may sound intimidating but the process is actually straightforward. According to sources, you first need to have proof of your state residency. Afterward, compile all your supporting evidence like your birth certificate, social security card, and identification cards.

Once you got all these documents with you, you can then file a change of name petition. This will be sent to the court clerk in your area. The form will have your name of choice, socials, and your statement proving that you’re requesting the change. After completing all the steps, the final process will be a hearing scheduled. A magistrate or a judge will ask you several questions before granting your request.

You can do it without a lawyer.

For some people, going to a court hearing could be daunting. Filling out legal stuff and doing the process alone may make you feel uneasy but you have to trust us that you can do it yourself. The process has clear and points by point instructions so you won’t get lost along the way. However, if the process is too overwhelming, you can hire a direct lawyer or a company service that will help you with all the work that needs to be done. Of course, there will be a fee for the services you will be getting. The name change process is a separate payment as well.

Changing your name does not come cheap.

Source: Pixabay

In most US states, you have to pay around $150- $200 just for the court petition. Other fees include the forms and the notary services you will be getting. For backup purposes, you may also want to keep certified true copies of all the certificates you will be getting for the name change. All these copies are needed when you send them to your banks and other institutions as proof of the change that was recently made. According to those who have gone through the whole process, they said that they spent over $400 in total and a few days of attention just to get everything done.

You can change your name to anything with a few exceptions.

The most common question on how to change your name is if you’re able to change it to anything you like. Technically, yes. You can do so. You can legally change your name to almost anything but with a few exceptions. Remember that you cannot change your birth name to evade the law, avoid any debts, or commit fraud. Most importantly, make sure that it’s not a punctuation mark, a trademarked name, a celebrity’s name, or a number. Also, obscene or offensive name changes are one of the exceptions. According to companies that service and assist name change requests, make sure that you are certain of the new name you will be getting. It might cost you some more for misspelling and second thoughts.

Do your research for the name change process as state laws vary.

State laws vary from state to state on the process of how to change your name. In some states, they will require you to file it in court while some other states don’t. For example, California will technically allow you to choose the name of your liking and use it consistently. This is under California’s usage method. Although the guidelines are pretty clear, you still need to do all the necessary steps to provide proof to banks, the DMV, the SSA, or other institutions. Always do your research regardless of where you live. It’s to make sure that you follow the protocol of the state. 

Do not process name change before your big vacation.

Source: Unsplash

During the process of your name change, you will not have a passport. This means that your travel options will have a limit. It will take the United States State Department around 6 weeks for the application of the change. Passport renewal may take a long time too so make sure that you do not change your name before preparing for a big travel vacation. The sooner the process of the change is done and you apply for a new passport with the new name, only then can you resume your globetrotting.

Announce the name change in newspaper and public channels.

For all name change cases, it’s a requirement for you to announce to the world the new name that you will be having.  It will be in a newspaper advertisement so that the public can see. In most US states, the court will require you to publish the notice of name change in your local newspaper before they process the change. It’s to allow other parties and possible creditors to object and be aware of the change. At a minimum, this will be a notice for them that you are changing your name. 

With this, you need to visit your court clerk about the details of the announcement of your new name. In some other states. they will require it only to be advertised in certain newspapers while some only in the specific county you are living in. And yes, there will be a corresponding fee for this announcement.

Wait for the official paperwork before announcing your name change.

We understand that it’s important to notify people and institutions of your new name but do not do it so soon. Lawyers advise that you should wait for the official paperwork before you can broadly announce the change to others. While waiting, you can also preserve your good credit standing since you’d most want to keep the credit history that you built from your old name.

Those who will be undergoing gender reassignments should consult first with their health insurance companies. Confusion may arise if there’s a sudden name change and the coverage is still under your old name. Waiting to do anything big or announcing it publicly before you get the legal papers may create logistical problems. Save time and effort by waiting for everything to be ready and in place. 

Double check everything and check it some more.

woman, laptop
Source: Pixabay

It would be an absolute horror to find out that you misspelled your new name after all the effort you did just to get it done. When the legal documents are in and you’ve realized that your new moniker is not what you wanted it to be, it would definitely be frustrating. According to sources, people consult the process of legal name change all because of misspelling. 

Avoid any unwanted embarrassment and hassle of sending an official memo of doing a name change just because you spelled it out wrong. Be sure that you double-check and do it some more before submitting any form.

Update institutions and people of the change you made.

Once you get all the legal documents and the proof of your name change, another hoop of effort begins. You need to make businesses, government agencies, friends, and family, aware of the new name that you’ll be using. Update your identification documents and do not forget to notify your utility companies, loan companies, banks, and credit cards. Make a list of everyone you need to notify and update so you won’t be missing any. Other things that you need to do is update your insurance and medical records, get a new name for your check, and notify your local post office. If you have a trust or a will, you may want to consult them for the change of your name as well.

Be patient. It's a long process.

The road on how to change your name is not an easy one. It will be one hoop after another so be ready for a long ride. The process of how to change your name is not as simple as submitting a form and waiting for the change to arrive. The biggest thing that you have to remember is that doing the process is not a one-stop-shop. Although legal documents for divorce and marriage are easier compared to other reasons, the petition and the name change will not be official unless you inform important and relevant institutions. Trust the process and be patient.

Your family and friends may not understand your decision.

Source: Pixabay

If you’re opting to change your name or the family name that your parents gave, your family may not understand your decision. And with this, they may ask a lot of questions regarding this. Your peers may also have a hard time adjusting to your new name and it may take some time for them to get used to it. Just be prepared to answer questions along the way. Remember that it’s your decision and your personal choice. You’re free to answer anything as long as you’re comfortable with it. The most important thing in all this name change process is that the name makes you reflect the identity that best fits you. Above all, your new name makes you happy. 

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.