How to Change a Legal Name in Oregon

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A person's name often plays a more important role in their life than one might think. It's usually the first piece of information exchanged in a conversation, the subject of the first line on an application, and the words that distinguish one person from another.

Oregon Name Change Process

A person's name carries information about them and their lives. It may be possible to tell someone's gender, detect their heritage, and identify their family from their first and last names.

That's why a name change is an important alteration in someone's life and usually the subject of serious consideration before being accomplished. Each state, including the state of Oregon, has its own rules a person must follow and forms they must use to change their name and/or the name of a minor child.

Oregon's process is straightforward compared to some other states. It involves filling out an application, submitting it to the appropriate court, posting notice of it, and sometimes, attending a court proceeding. If an Oregon resident wishes to change their legal name, it's important to understand the state's procedure.

Reasons for a Legal Name Change

An individual is most likely to consider a legal name change when they make a major life change. This includes getting married, filing for divorce or adopting a child. But waiting for a major event is not a legal requirement in most states and certainly not in Oregon.

An adult can change their first or last name for any reason, including simply disliking it or preferring another name. However, the majority of legal name changes occur during marriage or divorce.

Events Leading to Name Change

Getting married traditionally involved the bride switching out her father's last name for her new husband's. Today, this custom is not universally followed, but has become more a personal choice.

In many states, either spouse or both can change their name when they marry. They can both opt to use both last names or to hyphenate them, or create a new name altogether.

Similarly, those who altered their family names for a marriage may consider changing them if and when a divorce ends the marriage. Name changes resulting from marriages and divorces account for the majority of name changes in most states, including Oregon.

A third kind of family name change occurs frequently during adoption. When a child is legally adopted, it becomes part of a new family and is usually given that family's name.

Oregon Name Change at Marriage

In most states, the easiest time for a person to change their name is when they marry. This is true in Oregon, although all name change procedures seem simpler and more direct in this state than in other states. But changing a family name at the time of marriage is really very easy.

Under Oregon state laws, anyone getting married has the right to decide on their family name after marriage. They may decide to retain the family name they took at birth, assume the family name of their spouse, or use a combination of the two names. It is currently popular for betrothed couples to contemplate a name change, and this is fairly easy and very straightforward if done correctly.

Note that options in Oregon are, however, somewhat limited. The state laws do not contemplate the two spouses selecting an entirely new last name that has not been the family name of either of them. The only two options are taking a spouse's last name or using a combination of their last names of the two individuals.

Oregon Marriage Name Change Procedure

In Oregon, it's important to understand the marriage name change procedure well before the big event, since the couple needs to start early. At the time they apply for a marriage license, the name issue should be considered and a decision made.

Oregon requires that the name choice be included on the marriage license applications, so the process should start well before the wedding.

The betrothed couple must apply for a marriage license in the county where they intend to hold the wedding ceremony. Both individuals, each at least 18 years old, are required to appear at the clerk's office together to purchase the marriage license. This process is important since it ensures that the couple can get a certified copy of their marriage certificate after the wedding.

Applying for a Name Change

Applying for name change happens on a county basis, and the license fee varies. It is usually around $55 or $60. Most counties offer the couple the possibility of filling out the application online before they appear to talk to the clerk. The process requires various types of identification and information about each person. They must each show the clerk:

  • Proof of age, accomplished with a passport or driver's license.
  • Social Security number.
  • Current address, birth date, place of birth and sometimes other personal information.

Why is the official marriage certificate so important? Once the marriage is finalized, that certificate serves as proof of the married status and also proof of the legal name change. It must be used to update an individual's name with any relevant state agency.

Changing a Name After Divorce

Divorces are stressful, especially if there are minor children with custody, visitation and family support issues. It is fortunate that, in Oregon, restoring a prior name after divorce does not cause many additional headaches.

However, just like some people agonize about whether to change their names when they marry, restoring a name during a divorce is not always an easy decision. Not everybody chooses to restore their original family name after a divorce, especially if the marriage was lengthy or there are minor children.

If both parents want their children to bear the same last name as they do, this can become a divisive issue.

Name Restoration in the Divorce Filing

Restoring a prior family name after an Oregon divorce is nearly as easy as changing it for marriage. As with a marriage name change, it's best to consider the name issue early in the divorce proceedings. That way, individuals going through divorce who wish to go back to using their former names simply make the name change request to the divorce court judge.

When the judge finalizes the divorce with a court order, the divorce decree reflects the name restoration and serves as the person's certified name change document. The place to start is with the Social Security Administration, followed by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, then financial institutions.

Oregon Name Change After Adoption

When a child is legally adopted in Oregon, the new parents can, and usually do, give the child their family name. Note that the authority is only absolute if the child is young. Children who are 14 years old or older must consent to any name change.

The parents can select both the first and last name, giving the child a completely new name or change (or add to) any part of the child's current name. That is, they can change the first, middle and/or last name, or add a second middle name, or a compound last name. They can also opt for a last name which is completely different from the parents’ last names, for example, to match a sibling's last name.

The process is not very different from a marriage or divorce name change in Oregon. The parents set out the new name in the Oregon adoption application. Once the adoption becomes final, and there is a Judgment of Adoption, the child's new official name is reflected in the state adoption certificate.

Obtaining a New Birth Certificate

A new birth record is prepared for the child upon the Judgment of Adoption. When a court approves an adoption for a child born in the state, the Oregon Vital Records office prepares a new birth record. The former birth record and the adoption documents are sealed and can be opened only through court order.

When an adopted child turns 21 years old, they have the right under Oregon law to order and view their pre-adoption birth record.

Other Adult Name Changes in Ohio

An adult residing in Oregon who wishes to change their name outside of marriage or divorce will find the path a bit more difficult.

On the other hand, Oregon allows name changes for any reason if the name change is not being requested to defraud creditors or for other illegal purposes. In order to make sure this is not the case, Oregon requires those seeking name changes outside of marriage and divorce jump through additional hoops.

Filing a Name Change Court Action

A name change action for an Oregon resident must be filed in an Oregon court in the county in which they live. It starts with filling out and filing two state forms:

In some counties, additional forms may be required. These forms can usually be found on the county court website.

The Petition for Change of Name asks for the petitioner's county of residence, current name and new chosen name. The individual must fill it out, then sign it with the current name to declare that the statements therein are accurate under penalty of perjury.

Other Court Forms

The General Judgment for Change of Name, must be filled out as well with the appropriate information. However, the signature space is left blank as it is for the court to sign. The judge's signature on this form makes the judgment official and legally binding.

These forms are filed along with the current filing fee in the Family Law Division of the court in the appropriate county. Filing fees are somewhere between $100 to $120 depending on the county. No hearing is necessary unless the court requests the petitioner to appear.

If the court grants the request for a name change, it enters a judgment into the Register of Actions and forwards a Notice of Entry of Judgment to the petitioner.

When a Court Might Not Grant the Name Change

There are some reasons why a name change will not be granted. For example, if a judge determines that the change is not consistent with the public interest, a name change application can be denied. This can happen if the court determines that the name change is intended to defraud creditors, to escape debts or lawsuits, or to escape child support orders.

Sex offenders are not allowed name changes in Oregon. All states refuse name changes for fraudulent purposes, and Oregon is no different.

Changing the Name of a Minor in Oregon

Changing the name of a minor in Oregon is similar to changing the name of an adult, but the petition must be filed by a parent or guardian on the child's behalf. The biggest difference between the adult and minor name change procedure in Oregon is the number of forms required. For a minor, consent forms are required including:

  • Consent from the child if the minor is 14 years old and less than 18.
  • Consent from the parents if the application is submitted by only one of the parents or by a guardian.

If a parent disagrees with the name change and refuses to give consent, the court will order a hearing and allow all parties to present their positions. The court will determine what is in the best interest of the minor. However, if the minor is at least 14 years old and refuses to consent, the petition will be denied.