People seek to change their last names for a variety of reasons. You may have gotten married or divorced, or simply found a new name you like better than your old one. Although Maryland allows you to legally change your last name simply by using it, you will not be able to change your name on your identity documents without either a marriage certificate or a court order, depending on the reason you changed your name.
Name Change Through Marriage
Select your new name. You may use your spouse's surname, for example, or a hyphenated name that combines your original surname with your spouse's surname. Put this name on your application for a marriage license.
Get married and obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Check it to make sure it identifies you using your new name.
Notify agencies that issued your identity documents, such as the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association and the U.S. Social Security Administration, of your name change. You must present a copy of your marriage certificate to have an identity document issued using your new name, and you may have to pay a filing fee.
Name Change for Other Reasons
Obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate by applying to the Office of Vital Records (or its local equivalent) in the state where you were born.
Download and print a Petition for Change of Name (please see Reference 1).
Complete the Petition for Change of Name. You must list your current name, your birth date, your address, your telephone number and your desired new name. You must also explain the reason why you want to change your name.
Send the Petition for Change of Name, together with a certified copy of your birth certificate and the appropriate filing fee, to the clerk of the state circuit court with jurisdiction over your county of residence. The filing fee varies by county. The court will publish a notice in a newspaper in general circulation in your county that will announce your name change petition and set a deadline for anyone to file an objection to it.
Attend the court hearing, if the court schedules one. The court has the authority to rule on your petition without a hearing, and may do so if nobody files an objection to it. If your petition is approved, the court will mail you a copy of the order.
Replace your identity documents using the court order as evidence of your new name.
You may not change your name to avoid debts or to escape criminal prosecution. Your name change petition will be denied if you seek to change your name in a manner that might mislead others or cause confusion.
If you are a minor, the court will send a copy of your name change petition to your parents before your name change is approved. Your parents may file a petition on your behalf.
David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.