How Do I Legally Change My Name in Ohio?

Bride putting ring on groom's finger. Rings exchange. Happy couple celebrating wedding outdoors in summer.
••• Anna Blazhuk/Moment/GettyImages

Related Articles

Anyone who has married, divorced, been adopted, or just hated their name since high school may consider a name change. Those who live in the state of Ohio will find that the process required to change a name is can differ by county. If the name change is by application, the applicant must get the rules and forms from the probate court in the county in which they reside.

Why Change a Name?

It is customary in some parts of the country for a woman to take the family name of her spouse when she marries. Some spouses decide to use both last names or to hyphenate them. If and when these marriages end in divorce, many prefer to once again use their original family name.

Name changes related to marriages and divorces account for the majority of name changes in Ohio.

Adoptions are another type of family-related name change. When a child is adopted, it almost always takes the name of the family into which they are being welcomed.

Finally, there are a variety of personal reasons that an individual in Ohio might wish to change their name. These range from simply disliking an extremely common name or an extremely uncommon or dated name, to finding their same name associated with a person or entity that they dislike, such as the name of a mass murderer or divisive politician.

Procedures for Name Change Vary

Note that the procedure for each type of name change – marriage, divorce, adoption of minor or personal preference – is different. Also, procedures and forms can differ among counties.

Changing a Name After Marriage

It is not surprising that, in Ohio, the easiest type of name change to implement is one that occurs in contemplation of marriage. This type of name change is initiated at the probate court in the county in which one of the spouses resides or where the marriage is to occur. But the application in question is not one for name change; it is a marriage application that results in a certificate of marriage.

In Ohio, either spouse may use a certified copy of a certificate of marriage to change their family name. One can take the family name of the other, both can use both last names, or they can hyphenate the last names simply by providing a certified copy of the Ohio marriage certificate to the relevant government agencies and companies that render services to them.

Start with the Social Security Administration, then add the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, financial institutions, insurance companies, and so forth.

Changing a Name After Divorce

Divorces are never easy, since dividing assets and child custody are legal issues fraught with emotion. Fortunately, restoring a prior name after divorce does not significantly add to the problems.

Not everybody opts to restore an original family name after a divorce. This can be a tricky decision when there are minor children and both spouses want their last names to match that of their children. Some opt to maintain the status quo, but others opt to shed their married last name.

For these, the process is not difficult, though slightly more involved than changing a name at marriage. That's because neither spouse need signal in the marriage certificate if a name change is desired. They can decide after the marriage and use the certificate to establish their right to do so.

Name Restoration in the Divorce Filing

In an Ohio divorce, on the other hand, the party wishing a name restoration must make the request as part of their divorce filing. The name change is incorporated into the divorce decree and a certified copy of that decree establishes the person's legal name change.

As is the case with marriage-based name changes, the SSA must be informed, then driver's licenses and financial accounts must be changed.

Ohio Name Change Process After Adoption

When a family adopts a child, they have the authority to determine the child's name. They list the new name in the Ohio adoption application, and it is reflected in the state adoption certificate.

It is typical for adoptive parents to change the last name of the child so that it carries the family name of the adoptive parents and other siblings. Sometimes, when parents are adopting a newborn, they can insert their last name as well as their choice for first and middle name on the original birth certificate.

If the child is older, there is likely already a birth certificate, but Ohio issues a new birth certificate in the adopted name.

Arranging a New Birth Certificate

Adoptive parents must weigh the pros and cons of a name change of adopted children. This can be a divisive and emotional issue requiring careful thought, as well as a conversation with the child.

Generally, the Ohio probate court that approves the adoption will forward all needed paperwork to the Vital Statistics Office to have the new birth certificate issued. A few counties, however, require the adoptive parents to do this.

If this is the case, they must get a certified copy and send it to: Ohio Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, P.O. Box 15098, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

Note that it can take up to six weeks for processing.

Other Adult Name Changes in Ohio

As mentioned above, any adult in Ohio who wants a name change can petition the probate court for one. There are certain precautions required by Ohio counties to make sure that the name change is not undertaken in order to defraud creditors or for other illegal purposes.

That means that a written application and backup material must be submitted to the court in the individual's county of residence.

Filing a Court Application

The person wishing to change their name must file an application to have the case heard by the court. Ohio laws require that a hearing be held on the name change petition. The court can deny the name change if the person offers a suspect reason or doesn't provide all the requisite documentation.

Name changes that are for fraudulent purposes, such as to evade creditors or escape legal liability for a crime are not permitted in any state, including Ohio.

Newspaper Publication of Name Change

One of the ways the state attempts to circumvent name changes for fraudulent reasons is by requiring that notice of the requested name change be published in a local newspaper before the petition is heard.

Some counties require one publication in one paper at least 30 days before the hearing, but other counties have different rules, so an applicant needs to check. The published notice gives creditors a heads-up to attend the hearing or file objections with the judge.

Arranging publication should not be very difficult. Most newspapers have a standard form used for legal notices and simply publish some part or the entirety of the petition. A notice must include:

  • Court address.
  • Court hearing date and time.
  • County court case number.
  • Purpose of the application.
  • Applicant's current name.
  • Name they wish to use.

The newspaper will charge a fee for running the notice and offers a proof of publication, sent out after the notice has run. The applicant must take the original notice and proof of publication to the name change hearing before the court in some counties; in others, it must be filed before the hearing.

Changing the Name of a Minor in Ohio

Changing the name of a minor in Ohio is also regulated on the county level. Each county probate court has its own rules. They are not much more difficult than those for changing the name of an adult if:

  • Both parents agree.
  • Minor child agrees.
  • There is no record of delinquency.

If any of these three conditions are not met, counties can impose additional hoops for the applicant to jump through. Generally, the parent or legal guardian must fill out an application for changing the name of the minor, just like for an adult.

In every county, the form requires the names and addresses of both parents, the current name and proposed name of the minor, and the reasons for the name change.

Information Needed for Application Form

The form must state whether consent is given by both parents, and each much sign forms certifying their approval. If both parents give their approval, the court may not require a hearing.

But it can require extensive documentation of the identity of the adult seeking the name change, the other parent, and the child, including, in every case, a certified copy of the child's birth certificate.

If One Parent Disagrees

If one parent doesn't agree or refuses to sign a consent form, the court schedules a hearing and provides notice to the parent who disapproves of the name change. Both parents can be heard by the court.

The parent who is applying for the name change has the burden of showing that it is in the child's best interests and must present evidence to the court on this point.

Often, a name change petition for a minor follows a divorce in which one spouse has their original family name restored, or a second marriage in which a spouse changes their family name. But if the other natural parent disagrees with the name change, an Ohio court must weigh all factors before granting a court order.

Using a New Name After Name Change

Once a person's name is changed in Ohio, the real work starts. A name change means nothing if it is not implemented.

Not only must the person begin actively using their new name, they must also report the change to critical agencies, government services, and also to important companies like those providing bank accounts and other financial accounts. Informing the Social Security Administration and the Ohio BMV are at the top of the list.

Updating a Social Security card with the Social Security Administration is a very important step, and doing this first can make the rest easier. Instructions on the SSA website suggest this procedure:

  • Fill out an application form to obtain an updated card with the new name. Download the application form from the site.
  • Submit the completed application form by visiting an SSA office or by mailing it, together with the required documents, to any SSA office.
  • Include all requisite documents, including a copy of the marriage certificate as legal proof of name change after marriage; a copy of the divorce order as legal proof for name change after divorce; an adoption order for a change of name after adoption. The SSA may require additional documentation of identity and citizenship.
  • Expect the SSA to update information and mail out a new social security card relatively quickly after all necessary information and documentation has been received. This could take between two and four weeks, and the new card will have the new name of the individual together with their original Social Security number.

To update Ohio driver's license information, check with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for the latest information on how to proceed. The steps are similar to those for the SSA.