While a person can use any name they choose for personal interaction and non-formal documents, using a name other than that which is on a person's birth certificate for legal forms requires an official name change. Doing so for a first or middle name requires filling out forms, publishing your intent in a public newspaper, possible fees and a court meeting. The process could take six to twelve weeks (as of 2009). After the change, if your middle name is used on forms of identity such as a driver's license or passport, you must go to the appropriate agency with your court documents and change the item.
Go online to www.courtinfo.ca.gov (for California) or a similar site for your state. You can also visit your local civil court to get the proper forms.
Explain at the information desk that you are seeking forms to change your name and the clerk will direct you where to go.
Understand that each state may have different form numbers. In California, get Form NC-100, Petition for Change of Name; Form NC-110, Attachment to Petition; Form CSM-010, Civil Case Cover Sheet; Form NC-130, Decree Changing Name; and Form NC-120, Order to Show Cause for Change of Name. Make two copies of each form.
Fill out the forms. If there are any errors, the process may be delayed or denied. File the forms and keep your copies. You will have to take Form NC-130 to your court appearance for the judge to sign.
Check with the clerk to be sure these are the only forms you need. Some states and counties require forms for criminal background checks.
Be sure you are given a date to appear in court after filing the Petition for Change of Name. Depending on how busy the court is, this will take at least six weeks.
Pay the required fee. Court fees are different in different states and will change over time. The fee will generally be over $300. For low income people, you may be able to qualify for a fee waiver. Check with the clerk for the proper form.
Review a list of acceptable public newspapers where you can publish an official statement that you intend to change your name. This must be done once per week for four weeks in a row. Call each paper for best rates.
Attend your court date. The judge may ask you questions about why you are changing your name and whether you are changing your name to avoid any legal actions. Be sure to have a short statement prepared on exactly why you are changing your name. It should only be a few sentences long. Also, be sure you have Form NC-130 and proof of newspaper publication (clips of your intent). Once the judge approves the documents, get a certified copy that your name is changed. If your middle name is published on your driver’s license and other legal forms of identity, the certified court copy must be taken to the DMV, Federal Government Passport Office and the different offices responsible for changing each legal document.